Following the news that Isao Iijima, a Cabinet Secretariat Advisor, had arrived in North Korea on Tuesday for unannounced diplomatic meetings, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that he would be willing to personally meet with leader Kim Jong-Un, if the conditions were right. The Japanese premier declined to comment any further on Iijima’s visit, however, only saying that it was an attempt to improve relations. Unnamed sources have revealed that Iijima is not expected to return to Japan until Friday.
In regard to a meeting with North Korea’s Kim, Abe said that the focus would be on the issue of Pyongyang’s abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 80s for use in training spies. He added that a meeting itself wouldn’t be the end-goal, as there would need to be hope that it could lead to a resolution of the abduction issue, similar to when former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi negotiated the release of five Japanese victims after visits to North Korea in 2002 and 2004.
A spokesman for the U.S. State Department has also commented that they are eager to hear from the Tokyo government about Iijima’s visit after his return. U.S. special representative for North Korea issues Glyn Davies will be meeting with officials in the Japanese capital for three days starting from Thursday, meaning he could be present for Iijima’s return. Japanese and North Korean diplomats were engaged in steps to rekindle discussions over the past abductions, with a successful meeting held in Mongolia in November of last year, however those meetings were promptly halted after Pyongyang’s latest missile and nuclear tests, followed by the recent week’s threats of war.
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