The government is considering holding a meeting of foreign ministers with North Korea on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Singapore in early August, informed sources have said.
The government aims to resolve the abductions issue through direct talks between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The matter was brought up at the recent U.S.-North Korea summit.
Tokyo hopes to understand where Pyongyang stands on the issue through the ministerial meeting, the sources said Friday.
The ASEAN forum will take place from July 30 to Aug. 4 and will likely bring together Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho.
If the Kono-Ri talks come to fruition, it will be the first official meeting between foreign ministers of the two countries since August 2015 in Malaysia.
Kono is keen to hold direct talks with Ri, saying that the two countries have entered a new phase. He intends to clarify Japan’s readiness to normalize ties based on the bilateral 2002 Pyongyang Declaration and offer economic cooperation if the abduction issue is resolved.
When it was brought up at the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim, North Korea did not reiterate that it has already been resolved, as it has repeatedly done in the past.
Japan is in contact with North Korea through their embassies in Beijing. The ultimate aim is a bilateral summit.
During a meeting in Mongolia on Thursday, a senior Foreign Ministry official told a North Korean official that Japan is ready to hold high-level talks.
Tokyo has been trying to arrange an opportunity for Abe to meet with Kim on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum to be held in Vladivostok, Russia, in September, or at the U.N. General Assembly in New York the same month, the sources said.