Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday hailed the outcome of the inter-Korean summit and the leaders’ pledge to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
“I welcome (the outcome) as the earnest discussion on denuclearization and other issues was a move toward the comprehensive resolution of various challenges surrounding North Korea,” Abe told reporters at his office.
Praising South Korea’s efforts in the run-up to the historic summit, Abe said he will be briefed over the phone on the outcome by President Moon Jae-in.
Foreign Minister Taro Kono is expected to pay a visit to South Korea in early May to meet with his counterpart Kang Kyung-wha and be briefed on the results of the summit, according to a government source.
In a statement, Kono said Japan welcomes the fact that the leaders discussed denuclearization and that Kim showed a willingness to do so in the document they signed.
Based on the 2002 Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration, Japan aims to normalize the bilateral relationship by resolving issues, such as the North’s past abduction of Japanese nationals and missile and nuclear programs, Kono said.
It is unclear whether Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un discussed the abduction issue as they did not touch on it in their joint statement or news conference.
Abe’s government views resolving the abduction issue as a priority. In a phone conversation earlier this week, Abe asked Moon to raise the issue during the summit with Kim.
The government officially recognizes 17 people as having been kidnapped by the North in the 1970s and 1980s. Five of them were returned in 2002, but North Korea insists eight died and the other four never entered its territory.
Abe recently agreed with U.S. President Donald Trump to maintain “maximum pressure” on North Korea until it addresses concerns about its nuclear weapons and missile development programs in a “complete, verifiable and irreversible” way. Trump is also expected to hold a summit with Kim by early June.
Abe brushed off concerns that Japan has become isolated amid the diplomatic developments related to North Korea, saying Tokyo will closely coordinate with Washington and Seoul on policy toward Pyongyang.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera stressed the need for “drawing concrete steps” from Pyongyang toward resolving the abduction, nuclear and missile issues.