May 16, 2013 09:19
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday hinted that he could meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Speaking at a session of the House of Councilors' budget committee, Abe said such a meeting would be worth considering if it can help resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea during a bizarre campaign in the 1970s and 80s.
"The meeting wouldn't be an end in itself," he added, pointing out that former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited North Korea in 2002 and won the release of five abduction victims and their families.
This suggests that Japan is pushing for a summit through Cabinet Secretariat Adviser Isao Iijima, who made a surprise visit to Pyongyang the previous day.
But when asked about the exact purpose of Iijima's visit, Abe refused to comment. He would only say that the overall goal of diplomacy with North Korea is "to improve relations with the North in accordance with the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration by resolving the abduction, nuclear and missile issues."
The declaration was issued by Koizumi and then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2002 and aims to establish normal diplomatic ties between the two countries. The endeavor stalled when the North refused to release more abduction victims and conducted a nuclear test.
A diplomatic source in Tokyo said, "Japan seems to be putting out its own feelers because it was excluded from discussions of the North Korean issue due to conflict with South Korea and China" over Tokyo's lurch to the right and territorial disagreements.
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