Sankei ran a front-page report on May 2 on its exclusive interview with Prime Minister Abe on the previous day, in which the premier said that he would like to engage in a “candid straight-from-the-shoulder discussion” with the DPRK’s Kim Jong Un “without any preconditions” at an early date. The paper suggested that this was an attempt by Abe to move the deadlocked abduction issue forward by sending a strong message to North Korea. Abe also stressed the importance of Japan’s taking the initiative in dealing with North Korea while at the same time reiterating the need to cooperate with the international community. He said meeting face-to-face with Kim is the “only way” to “break the wall of mutual distrust.” He expressed hope that Kim will act as a leader capable of making “flexible, strategic” decisions on what is best for his country. He was quoted as saying that “to resolve the abduction issue, the two countries must first normalize diplomatic relations based on the Pyongyang Declaration of 2002.”
Abe also revealed that during his recent visit to the U.S., in addition to his meeting with President Trump at the White House, he also spent about 50 minutes talking one-on-one with the President on the abduction and other issues during their ride to the golf course. He indicated that he hopes the President will meet with the abductees’ families during his visit to Japan starting on May 25.
Sankei also carried a detailed account on May 3 of what Abe said in the interview, saying he reiterated his determination to revise the Constitution and expressed his thoughts on Emperor Naruhito’s accession. He also revealed that President Trump explained the details of his meeting with Kim Jong Un in Hanoi and that the President told him he “clearly” conveyed to Kim his thinking on the abduction issue and engaged him in a “serious discussion” on this issue.
Meanwhile, Kyodo reported on Sunday on the disclosure by several GOJ sources that during his Hanoi meeting with President Trump, Chairman Kim reportedly said to the U.S. leader: “I understand that the abduction of Japanese nationals is an outstanding issue between North Korea and Japan. I will meet with Prime Minister Abe eventually.” The GOJ reportedly views the alleged remarks as a positive sign since Kim did not repeat the standard refrain that the abduction issue is already settled. According to the sources, the President briefed Abe on Kim’s purported statement during a teleconference that was held immediately after the summit.