A key confidante of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held secret talks in Beijing last year with a high-ranking North Korean official, Japan's Kyodo News reported Tuesday.
The Japanese official was Isao Iijima, an advisor to Abe.
Kyodo cited sources in China as saying Iijima met a North Korean official in Dalian, near the border with the North, in October. The officials discussed the auction of a building in Japan owned by the pro-Pyongyang association of Korean residents in Japan, or Chongryon, and other issues.
The news agency said Iijima may have even discussed ending Japan’s economic sanctions against the North and a possible summit between Abe and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Any secret contact that took place between Japan and North Korea without informing South Korea and the U.S. could undermine concerted efforts the three allies are making to deal with the North's nuclear weapons program.