Japan's Abe open to meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un

Abe said he is willing to meet Kim to resolve the long-standing issue of kidnapped Japanese citizens in North Korea.

    Japan's Abe open to meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un
    Shinzo Abe made the announcement during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday [Eduardo Munoz/Reuters]

    Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a longtime hardliner on North Korea, said he was willing to meet Kim Jong-un at a speech at the UN General Assembly.

    Abe, who one year ago warned at the United Nations that the window for diplomacy with North Korea was closing, took a more open but still cautious tone on Tuesday in his latest address to the world body.

    But he said that any summit would be devoted to resolving a decades-old row over North Korea's abductions of Japanese civilians - a deeply emotive issue for much of the Japanese public on which Abe built his political career.

    "In order to resolve the abduction issue, I am also ready to break the shell of mutual distrust with North Korea, get off to a new start and meet face to face with Chairman Kim Jong-un," Abe said in his UN address.

    "But if we are to have one, then I am determined that it must contribute to the resolution of the abduction issue." Abe added.

    He stressed that no summit was yet in the works - and appealed to Kim to show his own readiness.

    "North Korea is now at a crossroads at which it will either seize or fail to seize the historic opportunity it was afforded," Abe said.

    North Korea kidnapped scores of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to train the regime's spies in Japanese language and culture.

    Japan's then-prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, travelled to Pyongyang in 2002 and 2004 to seek a new relationship with the current leader's father Kim Jong-il and was told by North Korea that remaining abduction victims were dead - a stance adamantly rejected by Japanese family members and campaigners.

    Speculation has been rising that Abe could meet Kim, who reportedly told Trump during their summit in June in Singapore that he was willing to talk to regional rival Japan.

    With South Korea's dovish President Moon Jae-in also courting Kim, fears have risen in Japan that it could be shut out of any ultimate resolution on North Korea if it refuses dialogue.

    SOURCE: News agencies


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