Japan expects the latest meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to move forward stalled denuclearization negotiations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday.
“Japan has supported the U.S.-North Korea process since the two countries’ (first) summit in Singapore (in June last year). We hope the meeting this time will push it forward,” Abe told reporters at his office, referring to efforts to achieve full denuclearization of the North.
Trump, who visited Japan for the two-day Group of 20 summit through Saturday before leaving for a trip to South Korea, made a surprise visit to the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas on Sunday to meet Kim. The two leaders agreed to restart, within weeks, denuclearization talks that have been stalled since the breakdown of their second summit, which was held in Vietnam in February.
Abe is keen to hold talks with Kim to settle the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, a major sticking point between the two countries. Tokyo is paying close attention to the talks between Washington and Pyongyang in the hope they could eventually lead to a summit between Abe and Kim.
Previously, Abe had said he would not meet Kim unless an outcome was guaranteed for the settlement of the abduction issue, but he has recently changed his position, saying he will meet Kim “without conditions” to resolve outstanding bilateral issues.
Meanwhile, relatives of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea said Sunday the meeting between Trump and Kim had revived their hopes for resolving the issue of their missing family members.
“I first felt like it was kind of a performance,” Kenichi Ichikawa said, referring to the two leaders walking across the border in the zone ahead of their summit. His younger brother, Shuichi, disappeared from a beach in Kagoshima Prefecture in 1978.
But “I would appreciate it if (their meeting) leads to progress on the abduction issue.”
Sakie Yokota, the 83-year-old mother of Megumi Yokota who disappeared on the way home from school in 1977 at the age of 13, said she is not sure if the abduction issue is moving toward a settlement. “But I hope progress will be made on the issue,” she said.
Akihiro Arimoto, 90, who is waiting for the return of his daughter, Keiko, said the United States may help the abduction issue to be settled, just as it suddenly set up Sunday’s unplanned meeting. In late May, Trump met with some family members of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. He vowed to cooperate with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to secure their return. Arimoto received a handwritten letter from Trump earlier this month.
“It is Japan’s turn now. Prime Minister Abe should swiftly hold talks with North Korea,” he said.