North Korean leader Kim Jong Un insists Pyongyang has made “many concessions” to Japan over the abduction issue, arguing that Tokyo is to blame for the deadlock in talks on the matter, a person familiar with the situation said Monday.
Kim has expressed the view to U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, according to Choi Song Ryong, head of the South Korean Families of Abducted and Detained in North Korea, who quoted sources in Pyongyang.
That view is shared among officials of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, according to Choi, who has unique sources in Pyongyang.
Japan officially lists 17 of its citizens as having been kidnapped by North Korean agents and suspects Pyongyang’s involvement in many more disappearances of Japanese nationals.
Of the 17, five were repatriated in 2002 but North Korea has claimed eight of them died and the other four never entered the country.
Kim has held talks with high-ranking U.S. and South Korean officials several times this year.
On such occasions, Kim has emphasized that North Korea admitted to having abducted the Japanese and apologized in 2002, that it allowed the parents of Megumi Yokota — a symbol of the abduction issue — to meet their granddaughter in Mongolia in 2014, and that it agreed with Japan to reinvestigate the matter in Stockholm in 2014, Choi said.
Kim has said that Japan has rejected receiving the findings of the reinvestigation, according to Choi. Tokyo has maintained that no explanations were made.
Japan has recently sounded out North Korea about a plan to establish a liaison office in Pyongyang to resolve the long-standing issue of past abductions.
North Korea, however, is unlikely to resume any negotiations on the matter unless Tokyo accepts the results of its investigation into the abductions in the 1970s and 1980s that it previously provided to Japan following their talks in Stockholm in 2014.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in an interview aired on Monday that it is important to discuss how to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula through multilateral frameworks such as the long-stalled six-party talks.
Abe also noted in the interview with Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV, recorded Friday, that he is eager to “break the shell of mutual distrust and come face-to-face” with Kim to resolve issues of bilateral concern.
Abe has said that tackling the abduction issue is his “life’s work.”
The six-party talks including the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia started in 2003 but have been deadlocked since late 2008 against a backdrop of disputes over the verification of the North’s denuclearization.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in September that the six-party talks, chaired by his country, “would continue to work as an indispensable multilateral framework” to resolve issues related to North Korea.
Abe is scheduled to visit China for three days from Oct. 25 to talk with high-ranking officials including President Xi Jinping. Abe is expected to raise the abduction issue in talks with Chinese officials, given Beijing’s ties with Pyongyang.
Japan has no diplomatic relations with North Korea.