Kim ready to hold talks with Abe 'at any time'

N. Korean leader passes message through Moon after being told of Tokyo's hopes for a summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said he is ready to hold talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe "at any time", as Tokyo eyes tentative steps towards normalising bilateral ties.

Mr Kim conveyed this to South Korean President Moon Jae In during their landmark summit last Friday, the South's presidential Blue House spokesman Kim Eui Kyeom said yesterday.

Mr Moon had told Mr Kim of Tokyo's interest in talks with Pyongyang, and its hopes for a resolution to the decades-old issue of abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents.

Japan first confirmed last month that it has been liaising with the North on a possible bilateral summit via their embassies in Beijing.

Japan's Foreign Ministry, when asked about the possibility of talks with the North, told The Straits Times: "All we can say at this moment is that we will look carefully at movements of North Korea."

If a summit were to happen, it will be the first meeting between the leaders of Japan and North Korea since 2004, when then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang for talks with then leader Kim Jong Il.

ON POSSIBLE JAPAN-N. KOREA TALKS

All we can say at this moment is that we will look carefully at movements of North Korea.

JAPAN'S FOREIGN MINISTRY

Yesterday, Mr Moon spoke to Mr Abe in a 45-minute phone call to convey the outcomes of the inter-Korea summit. Mr Abe, speaking to reporters after the call, expressed gratitude to Mr Moon for taking up Japan's interests at the summit table.

He said he appreciated the vision of "complete denuclearisation" of the Korean peninsula as spelt out in the Panmunjom Declaration issued on Friday, named after the truce village where the talks were held.

Seoul also said yesterday Pyongyang not only pledged to dismantle its nuclear test site next month, but also vowed transparency in the process. Mr Kim said he will invite US and South Korean experts and media to the site closure.

South Korean intelligence chief Suh Hoon, who was in Tokyo to brief Mr Abe on the summit outcomes, told reporters: "The international community must cooperate so that the denuclearisation pledged by the North can be implemented."

On the abduction issue, Mr Abe was tight-lipped on how Mr Kim responded, saying: "At this stage we cannot give details."

Officially, Tokyo recognises 17 people have been kidnapped by the North, though many more are suspected to be victims. Five were returned in 2002. Pyongyang insists eight have died while the other four never stepped foot in the North.

Liberal Democratic Party secretary-general Toshihiro Nikai said yesterday: "There would be no progress whatsoever on the abduction issue without holding direct talks."

Mrs Sakie Yokota, 82, whose daughter Megumi was abducted in 1977 at the age of 13, told NHK yesterday she hoped all the victims will return as soon as possible, and "there will be no more lies from the North".

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2018, with the headline 'Kim ready to hold talks with Abe 'at any time''. Print Edition | Subscribe