North Korea

Japan PM Shinzo Abe wants abduction issue resolved in denuclearisation talks between North and South Korea

The North admitted in 2002 it kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train spies, but Tokyo suspects that hundreds more may have been taken

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2018, 4:24pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2018, 9:39pm

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a South Korean representative on Tuesday he wants talks with North Korea, called to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programmes, to resolve a dispute over past abductions of Japanese citizens as well.

“A resolution of the abduction, nuclear and missile issues is Japan’s core policy,” Abe told South Korean National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon in Tokyo.

“North Korea must match its words with actions,” Abe said at the start of a meeting to discuss planned talks between the two Koreas and between Pyongyang and Washington.

Tokyo’s insistence on including discussion of the abductions of its citizens by North Korean agents could cause friction between Japan, South Korea and the United States if Seoul or Washington were willing to cut a denuclearisation deal with Pyongyang separate from any abduction agreement.

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.

uh urged Japanese cooperation but did not specifically mention the abduction issue.

“Cooperation between the leaders of South Korea and Japan is important for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the resolution of the missile issue,” Suh said.

Pyongyang’s professed desire to abandon nuclear weapons was significant because it came directly from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he said.

Suh told reporters after the meeting Abe had pledged to provide all cooperation for successful summits between the two Koreas and between the United States and North Korea.

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He met Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Kono on Monday and said after those talks Japan and South Korea had agreed to keep up maximum pressure on North Korea to force it to abandon its nuclear and missile ambitions.

A South Korean presidential Blue House spokesman later said Kono told Suh that the change in the situation on the Korean peninsula was a near “miracle”.

US President Donald Trump has agreed to meet North Korea’s Kim by the end of May. South Korean President Moon Jae-in also plans to hold a summit with Kim by the end of April.

Abe, who asked Trump for help to resolve the abduction issue in a telephone call after the announcement of planned talks, has said he plans to travel to the United States next month to meet the US leader.

“It is extremely important for North Korea to take concrete steps and implement what it has said” to realise a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, Abe said at Friday’s meeting with the South Korean envoy.

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Japan has expressed its readiness to assist the process of North Korea’s denuclearisation by covering the initial costs needed for the International Atomic Energy Agency to resume stalled inspections of the North’s nuclear facilities.

South Korea’s National Security Office chief Chung Eui Yong, who led the delegation to Pyongyang and travelled to Washington with Suh, visited China on Monday to brief President Xi Jinping and other senior officials about the South Korean envoys’ meeting with Kim.

Additional reporting by Associated Press