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PM Abe eyes dialogue with North Korea, denies that Japan is being left behind

By Hiroshi Tajima in Palm Beach, Florida


President Donald Trump pledged to bring up the issue of abduction of Japanese nationals at the U.S.-DPRK summit taking place by early June. Since the abduction issue can only be resolved through a summit meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Workers’ Party of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un, the Japanese government plans to make vigorous moves toward holding dialogue with North Korea if the U.S.-DPRK summit ends successfully.


Trump stressed at his joint news conference with Abe on April 18: “The abduction issue is important to me because it is important to the Prime Minister.” Abe also stated categorically, “The concern that Japan may be left behind is absolutely uncalled for.”


According to a source accompanying Abe on this trip, when Abe talked about the history of the abduction issue at the dinner of the two first couples on the evening of April 17, The source says Trump responded by saying: “Shinzo is very passionate about the abduction issue. I am moved.” 


The two leaders also agreed at their summit talks over two days to demand that North Korea abandon all its ballistic missiles, including short- and mid-range ones, and to maintain maximum pressure on the DPRK.


However, there is no guarantee that North Korea will change its position that “the abduction issue has been resolved” even if Kim is directly confronted by Trump on this issue. In reality, the only way to achieve a breakthrough is through Japan-DRPK negotiations.


Abe stated at the joint news conference with Trump: “If North Korea will take the right path, this will also open the way to the settlement of issues of the unfortunate past and normalization of diplomatic relations under the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration.”


This declaration signed when former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang in 2002 pledged economic cooperation after the normalization of relations. An expert says that the scale of economic cooperation would be “at least 1 trillion yen.”


The above source indicated that, “The Prime Minister’s statement at the joint news conference is a message to North Korea that Japan is willing to normalize ties and provide economic cooperation if the abduction issue can be resolved.”


A Japanese government source revealed that, “The Prime Minister is looking at the possibility of holding a Japan-DPRK summit through the Kantei, MOFA, and several other channels.” However, there is still a strong opinion in the government that, “Offering economic cooperation is unlikely to achieve satisfactory results for Japan.” Prospects for holding the summit remain uncertain.

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