TOKYO - The Japanese government plans to explore the possibility of a summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as it considers new ways to deal with the North, reported Kyodo news agency on Tuesday (March 13), citing government sources.
This came after Abe and other officials were briefed by South Korean National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon.
Suh is one of the South Korean envoys who met Kim in breakthrough talks held in Pyongyang last week. Kim agreed during last week's talks to hold a summit meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae In in late April in the border truce village of Panmunjom.
Suh and Chung Eui Yong, top security adviser for Moon, brought Kim's message to Washington where the special envoys met with US President Donald Trump.
Trump accepted Kim's willingness to hold a North Korea-US summit, saying he would meet with Kim by May to achieve a permanent denuclearization.
Abe told Suh that Japan wanted any denuclearisation talks with North Korea to also address a dispute over the abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.
He also said North Korea had to show its willingness to disarm.
"A resolution of the abduction, nuclear and missile issues is Japan's core policy," Abe said.
While the Abe administration has long advocated a cautious stance in holding dialogue with North Korea, it now anticipates there is a fresh chance to make progress towards resolving North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, the sources told Kyodo News.
"If we're to resolve the abduction issue, direct dialogue with the top - Mr Kim Jong Un - is essential," a source at Abe's office told Kyodo.
A high-ranking government official also expressed expectations for a Tokyo-Pyongyang summit.
"The issues of (North Korea's) nuclear and missile will be discussed at a summit between the United States and North Korea. Japan and North Korea can discuss (at a summit) the abduction issue and the normalisation of bilateral ties," the official told reporters.
The last time Japanese and North Korean leaders met was in 2004, when then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi met Kim's father Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang.