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Japan seeking summit with DPRK out of concern that abduction issue may be neglected

The Japanese government has begun to look into the possibility of holding a summit meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. This is out of concern that with the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula being the main topic at the North-South and U.S.-DPRK summits, Japan’s abduction issue may be neglected.

 

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated at a news conference on April 2: “An in-depth exchange of views on issues of mutual interest will probably take place at the Japan-U.S. summit.” A government source indicated, “The Prime Minister will also explain the possibility of holding Japan-DPRK summit talks to President Donald Trump.”

 

Abe regards the abduction issue as the “top priority” of his cabinet. He has a strong desire to work toward a solution through summit talks between the two leaders. In light of his plan to seek reelection for a third term as Liberal Democratic Party president this fall, he also wants to restore cabinet support ratings, which have plummeted as a result of the Finance Ministry’s document alteration scandal.

 

It is believed that the Kantei is taking the lead in coordination for a bilateral summit. A source on Japan-North Korea relations revealed, “Certain senior Japanese government officials have been invited by North Korea to visit to conduct coordination for summit talks.”

 

However, North Korea maintains its position that the abduction issue “has been resolved.” It is uncertain if this matter will move forward in the direction sought by Japan. North Korea had promised to reinvestigate the abduction cases under the Stockholm Agreement of 2014 but announced a complete suspension of the investigations in 2016.

 

A nationwide public opinion poll conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun on March 31-April 1 showed that 62% of respondents favored “careful consideration” on holding a Japan-DPRK summit, significantly exceeding those who thought the summit should be held “as soon as possible.” Many people are skeptical about the idea. The government will make a prudent decision based on its assessment of whether a summit would produce results on the abduction issue.

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