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Japan may pursue talks with North Korea about abductions of Japanese nationals

Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, arrives in Singapore on Sunday, June 10, 2018 for a bilateral summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

TERENCE TAN//MCI/XINHUA/ZUMA PRESS/TNS

By JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI Published: June 13, 2018

As the abductions of Japanese nationals were raised in the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting Tuesday, the Japanese government intends to seriously explore the possibility of a Tokyo-Pyongyang summit meeting, sources said.

"The abductions are the most important issue for the Abe administration. Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe's determination to reach a resolution through direct negotiations with Workers' Party of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un of North Korea has not changed," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference Tuesday after the summit meeting.

The Foreign Ministry plans to contact North Korean authorities at the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue, an international forum being held in Mongolia on Thursday and Friday, to explore possibilities, according to the sources.

However, a fully functioning channel between Japan and North Korea does not exist at the Foreign Ministry.

Abe plans to pursue behind-the-scenes talks with North Korea through an "intelligence agency route" headed by Cabinet Intelligence Director Shigeru Kitamura, a former National Police Agency official.

If the Japanese government believes progress is possible on the abduction issue, it may seek a Japan-North Korea summit meeting before the September presidential election of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, of which Abe is president.

If North Korean leader Kim attends the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, in mid-September, one option would be to sound out the North Korean side through an informal conversation between Abe and Kim.

North Korea has not changed its position that the abduction issue is "resolved." The Japanese government intends to watch closely for any shift by Pyongyang after the U.S.-North Korea summit.

The joint statement from the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting includes language on the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. However, it did not mention "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization," or specifically when or how it would happen.

Neither did the statement mention short- to medium-range missiles, which are conventional weapons capable of hitting Japan and other targets.

The 2002 Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration mentioned resolving nuclear and missile issues.

The U.S.-North Korea statement also did not mention destroying or stopping the proliferation of North Korea's nonnuclear weapons of mass destruction, such as biological and chemical weapons.

On Tuesday, Abe told reporters that he "supports" the statement. However, a senior government official said, "The Japanese government also needs to work toward resolving important issues besides the nuclear weapons."

Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga speaks to reporters on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 at Nago's Bankoku Shinryokan Hall.
MATTHEW M. BURKE/STARS AND STRIPES

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