BEIJING — The top North Korean negotiator on normalizing ties with Japan said there has been no communication between the two governments since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in May began calling for a summit, according to a Japanese delegation that returned from Pyongyang on Thursday.
Abe has voiced eagerness to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without conditions, but Ambassador Song Il Ho indicated that a summit is unlikely to take place soon, delegation leader Shingo Kanemaru told reporters at Beijing airport.
Song also dismissed the Japanese leader’s remarks as “contradictory,” he said.
“As far as a series of reports are concerned, (Abe) has said he will definitely talk about nuclear, missile and abduction issues. I think it is conditional,” Song was further quoted as saying.
Song held talks in Pyongyang on Wednesday with the Yamanashi prefectural delegation led by Kanemaru, the second son of the late Shin Kanemaru, a veteran lawmaker who worked toward the establishment of diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang in the 1990s.
The ambassador also told the delegation that having received no explanation from the Japanese government about Abe’s remarks, he is “not at a stage” where he can say North Korea would accept his request to hold a summit.
Song, meanwhile, criticized Abe’s government for having decided to exclude kindergartens run by pro-Pyongyang Korean schools from the list of Japan’s free preschool education system, scheduled to be launched in October, according to Kanemaru.
Unless such a measure is withdrawn, it would be difficult for Japan and North Korea to improve bilateral relations, Song was quoted as saying.
In 1990, Shin Kanemaru, who died in 1996 at age 81, co-headed a bipartisan delegation that went to North Korea and held talks with then leader Kim Il Sung, the country’s founder and Kim Jong Un’s grandfather.
His Liberal Democratic Party and the Japan Socialist Party signed a joint declaration then with the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, calling for the need to normalize diplomatic ties.
Shingo Kanemaru served as his father’s secretary and was deeply involved in the negotiations at the time. Since then he has frequently visited North Korea. In October last year, he also made a trip to North Korea and met with Song.
The issue of abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s has bogged down negotiations on normalizing ties.
Japan officially lists 17 people as abductees, five of whom were repatriated in 2002, and suspects North Korea’s involvement in many more disappearances. Pyongyang has argued that the abduction issue has been “already resolved.”