N. Korean state media raps Japan over focus on abductees

SEOUL • North Korea's state news agency slammed Japan for insisting on the return of abductees as a condition for normalising ties, accusing its neighbour of going "against the trend" towards the "building of a bright future", in the run-up to an unprecedented summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"The reactionaries of Japan are hyping the 'issue of abduction' which had already been settled," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a commentary published on Saturday.

"This is just mean and foolish behaviour to stem the trend of peace on the Korean peninsula," it added.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly insisted that the return of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago must be achieved, alongside the abandonment of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, before a settlement can be reached.

He has pressed Mr Trump to raise the issue at his summit with Mr Kim in Singapore on June 12.

Japan says that at least 17 of its citizens were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. Five were returned in 2002, and it says it is not satisfied with North Korea's explanations about the fate of the others.

KCNA said Japan was in the "wretched plight" of being alienated from developments surrounding the Korean peninsula, something the Abe government denies.

Mr Abe has sought to strengthen ties with Mr Trump in a bid to ensure his concerns about the abductees and about mid-and short-range missiles that threaten Japan are addressed.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump may visit Japan after his summit with Mr Kim to draw attention to the strength of the alliance, the Nikkei newspaper reported yesterday. The newspaper said that Mr Trump plans to brief Mr Abe on Mr Kim's views on the demands from Japan. They might also plan their next diplomatic moves towards North Korea.

At Mr Abe's summit with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae In in Tokyo last week, the three agreed on the need to denuclearise North Korea, but there was no mention of the policy of "maximum pressure" that Japan had sought to maintain.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2018, with the headline 'N. Korean state media raps Japan over focus on abductees'. Print Edition | Subscribe