North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ready to talk with Japan: Seoul

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The latter has said he is ready to hold dialogue with Japan at any time.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The latter has said he is ready to hold dialogue with Japan at any time.PHOTOS: AFP

SEOUL (XINHUA, THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AFP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said during the inter-Korea summit that Pyongyang was ready to hold dialogue with Japan at any time, the presidential Blue House of South Korea said on Sunday (April 29).

Mr Kim Eui Kyeom, spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae In, said that Mr Moon had a telephone conversation for 45 minutes with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to explain and share the result of the April 27 summit with the North Korean leader.

At the summit, Mr Moon relayed Mr Abe's willingness to talk with Pyongyang and normalise Japan-North Korea relations to Mr Kim. In response, Mr Kim told Mr Moon that his country is ready to talk with Japan at any time.

Japan – a key US ally in Asia – has long maintained a hardline position on negotiations with Pyongyang, but has found itself left on the sidelines of the recent whirlwind diplomatic activity.

Mr Abe had earlier informed Seoul of his intention for talks with the North.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government plans to maintain its policy of pressuring North Korea despite expressing a degree of approval of the joint statement signed last Friday by Mr Moon and Mr Kim.

This is because the government does not regard the Panmunjom Declaration as a tangible step towards the complete abandonment of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles.

The government also plans to promptly gather information from South Korea about why the declaration and the joint press conference by the two leaders failed to mention the issue of abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea.

Family members of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea expressed disappointment about the inter-Korea summit and instead shifted their hopes towards the US-North Korea summit scheduled to be held by early June.

It is unclear whether Mr Moon and Mr Kim discussed the abduction issue during the summit. Their joint statement made no mention of it.

Following the release of the Panmunjom Declaration, Mr Takuya Yokota, a younger brother of Ms Megumi Yokota - who was abducted in 1977 aged 13 - said the inter-Korea summit “focused on presenting a peaceful atmosphere".

“It’s disappointing that the statement failed to discuss the abductions and other human rights issues (involving North Korea),” the 49-year-old added.

Mr Yokota will visit the United States from Monday and meet with US government officials and others to appeal for cooperation in resolving the abduction issue.

“The US-North Korea summit will be a critical juncture,” he said.

Mr Shigeo Iizuka, 79, representative of the Association of Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, said last Friday’s summit was “filled with superficial remarks and actions, and lacked substance".

“Kim may have inherited the false perception that the abduction issue has already been resolved,” said Mr Iizuka, the older brother of Yaeko Taguchi, who was abducted in 1978 at 22.

“I hope (US President Donald Trump) obtains a definite promise during the US-North Korea summit to let the abductees return home, and makes it a springboard towards realising a Japan-North Korea meeting,” he added.