LONDON – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government is “using various channels” to communicate with North Korea, including over a potential summit with leader Kim Jong Un.
Asked by a reporter about meeting Kim, Abe said last June’s summit in Singapore between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump meant the “situation has greatly changed” and as both sides work toward further talks, “I think next time around I will also have to face Kim Jong Un.”
“Nothing has been decided on a Japan-DPRK summit, not even the timing,” Abe said through an interpreter at a news conference in London on Thursday, using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s formal name. “But we are using various channels, including the embassy in Beijing, to communicate with North Korea.”
“I would like to refrain from disclosing any details on our communications with the DPRK since it may impact the future negotiations,” he added.
Abe has previously said he wants a new start for Japan-North Korea ties, and has welcomed the talks between Trump and Kim as a step toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
But he has also made the return of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea a key political issue at home. Tokyo officially lists 17 people as having been kidnapped in the late 1970s and early 1980s, five of whom returned to Japan in 2002.
Abe’s latest comments come after Kim traveled to China for discussions on U.S.-led sanctions with Chinese President Xi Jinping, after which both leaders issued statements supporting a second U.S.-North Korea summit.
Seven months after Trump shook hands with Kim, the U.S. and North Korea continue to argue over what the leaders agreed to do. Washington asserts Kim accepted the “final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,” while Pyongyang says the deal implied a step-by-step approach where its actions were simultaneously met by U.S. responses.
Trump has pressed ahead with a second summit to resolve the dispute. The U.S. leader said this week that a date will be announced “in the not-too-distant future.”