Not wanting to feel left out, Japan PM Shinzo Abe also wants to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un
Tokyo has expressed a desire to meet with North Korea, the Asahi newspaper reported on Thursday. The conversation could take place in June, after May’s anticipated sit-down between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump
Japan has sounded out the North Korean government about a bilateral summit, and Pyongyang has reportedly discussed the possibility of a leaders’ meeting with Japan.
The government of Kim Jong-un has informed leaders of North Korea’s ruling Korean Workers’ Party of the possibility of a summit with Japan, the Asahi newspaper said, citing an unidentified North Korean source and briefing papers.
“The Japanese government has expressed a wish to host a leaders meeting, via the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan,” or Chongryon, Pyongyang’s de facto embassy in Japan, the Asahi quoted the briefing papers as saying.
The Japanese government said it had been in touch with the North but declined to offer specific comment on the report.
“We have been communicating with North Korea through various occasions and means such as a route via our embassy in Beijing, but I would like to refrain from going into specifics,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
A Chongryon spokesman in Tokyo declined to comment on the Asahi report.
A Japanese government source said in mid-March that Japan was considering seeking a summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Kim to discuss Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents decades ago.
The Asahi said in an article from Seoul Kim’s government had explained its bilateral diplomatic plans for South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia, in that order.
The North Korean briefing papers cite the possibility of a Japan summit in early June, the Asahi said.
Kim met President Xi Jinping in China this week, his first trip abroad since taking over as North Korean leader in 2011.
Summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump are being planned for April 27 and May, respectively.
Tokyo has made efforts to reach out to Pyongyang ever since it got wind that Trump accepted Kim’s invitation to meet, said Lisa Collins, fellow with the Korea Chair at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies: “They don’t want to be left out of any sort of deal that would be made, and they’re very anxious to get their foot in the door.”
Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono left open the possibility that Abe might meet Kim at some point. Kono said in an interview Tuesday Japan was closely watching preparations for the North-South Korean summit and the Trump-Kim meeting.
The Asahi quoted another unidentified source as saying North Korea’s “dialogue partner on security issues is America” but that the country “can only hope for large-scale financial help from Japan”.
North Korea hopes to get US$20 billion to US$50 billion in aid from Japan if it normalises relations, the newspaper said. However, it said the briefing papers offered no specifics about steps to normalise bilateral relations, as agreed in 2002.
Those steps include resolving the abductee issue, as well as Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons development.
North Korea admitted in 2002 it had kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train spies, and five of them returned to Japan. Tokyo suspects that hundreds more may have been taken.
Reuters, Agence France-Presse, CNBC