Japan PM says open to meeting N Korean leader

Last Updated on September 20, 2023 12:53 pm

New York : Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday he was willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seeking a diplomatic path as tensions soar over Pyongyang’s weapons programs.

Kishida reiterated the public offer at the UN General Assembly days after his government publicly announced his willingness for a summit.

In a speech from the UN rostrum, Kishida said that Japan was willing to resolve all issues with North Korea — including Pyongyang’s past kidnappings of Japanese civilians to train its spies.

“From the perspective of opening up a new era together, I would like to convey my determination to meet with President Kim Jong Un face to face at any time without any conditions,” Kishida said.

He said he would “like to hold high-level talks under my direct supervision to realize a summit meeting at an early time.”

Japan’s former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi paid a landmark visit to Pyongyang while in office in 2002, meeting Kim’s father Kim Jong Il and setting out a path to normalize relations in which Japan would offer economic assistance.

The trip led to the return of five Japanese nationals and a follow-up trip by Koizumi but the diplomacy soon broke down, in part over Tokyo’s concern that North Korea was not coming clean on the abduction victims.

North Korea carried out a nuclear test in 2006, setting a more confrontational phase. Tensions have soared in recent months as Pyongyang carries out a series of missile tests.

The United States under President Joe Biden has also offered talks but North Korea has shown little interest.

Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump took an unusually personal approach with Kim, meeting him three times and voicing admiration for him.

The historic summits led to a reduction of tension but no long-term agreement between the United States and North Korea, which have never technically ended their 1950-53 war.

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