Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent personal letters to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un between May and September proposing the two sides hold a summit, a major South Korean daily said Wednesday. The report was later denied by Tokyo.

Shotaro Yachi, then head of the secretariat for the National Security Council, traveled to Pyongyang as Abe’s special envoy three times during the period to deliver the letters, the Chosun Ilbo said, citing a South Korean intelligence source.

At a news conference in Tokyo the same day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga flatly denied the South Korean media report. The top government spokesman also reiterated that there is “no change” in Tokyo’s readiness to meet with North Korea unconditionally.

In May, Abe declared his willingness to hold talks with the North Korean leader without preconditions, a change to the administration’s previous stance of demanding progress in settling the issue of Japanese abductees in North Korea first.

In the wake of the prime minister’s criticism of recent North Korean missile launches, however, Pyongyang has hardened its stance toward Abe’s summit offer.

In a statement last week, Song Il Ho, North Korea’s envoy for diplomatic normalization with Japan, denounced Abe as an “idiot and villain” for “making a fuss” about the missile launches.

“Abe would be well-advised not to dream forever of crossing the threshold of Pyongyang,” Song said.

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