TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan and North Korea should begin talks to normalise relations between the two countries and contribute to peace and stability in the region, South Korean President Moon Jae In told a Japanese newspaper on Tuesday (May 8).
“In particular, I think dialogue between Japan and North Korea should be resumed,” Mr Moon said in the interview with the Yomiuri newspaper.
“If Japan-North Korea relations are normalised, that would greatly contribute to peace and security in North-east Asia beyond the Korean peninsula,” he said in written answers to questions submitted by the newspaper.
At Mr Moon’s summit last month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, both sides agreed to work towards denuclearisation.
Mr Kim said during that meeting he was “ready to have a dialogue with Japan anytime”, Mr Moon told the newspaper.
There was no immediate comment from the Japanese government, which has called Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programmes the toughest security threat facing Japan since World War Two.
Mr Moon’s interview was conducted ahead of a summit on Wednesday between Mr Moon, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Tokyo.
North Korea was expected to be high on the agenda, but a Chinese diplomat said last week the talks were about regional cooperation and not focused on the Korean peninsula.
Nevertheless, months of frosty relations between Beijing and Pyongyang appear to have thawed since Mr Kim’s secretive visit to Beijing in March, where he met Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Analysts said Mr Kim’s meeting with Mr Xi strengthened North Korea’s negotiating position by aligning the two nations ahead of Mr Kim’s summit with US President Donald Trump in the coming weeks.
A high-ranking North Korean official visited the Chinese city of Dalian this week, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said on Tuesday, citing multiple anonymous sources.
The North Korean official flew in a private plane and arrived at Dalian airport on Monday amid heavy security, Yonhap said. It did not identify the official.
In the interview, Mr Moon said Mr Kim’s desire for “complete denuclearisation” laid the groundwork for the future summit between the United States and North Korea, although it remained to be seen if concrete steps were agreed at the talks.
Mr Trump has said he will maintain sanctions and pressure on the North and “not repeat the mistakes of past administrations”, and has said his tough stance had led to the breakthrough.
“From now on, based on our deep mutual trust, we’ll make bold steps toward peace and prosperity, and unification,” Mr Moon said.