Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has expressed his readiness to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without any preconditions, in a bid to resolve the longstanding issues between the two countries. Kishida made the offer during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, saying he wanted to open up a new era of cooperation with Pyongyang.
Kishida said he was willing to discuss all matters of concern with North Korea, including its nuclear and missile programs, as well as the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. He said he would like to hold high-level talks under his direct supervision to realize a summit meeting at an early time.
Kishida’s offer comes amid heightened tensions in the region, as North Korea has conducted a series of missile tests in recent months, defying international sanctions and warnings. The United States, Japan’s ally and security partner, has also called for dialogue with North Korea, but Pyongyang has shown little interest so far.
Japan and North Korea have no formal diplomatic relations, and their ties have been strained by historical and territorial disputes, as well as the abduction issue. Japan has long demanded that North Korea return all the Japanese citizens it kidnapped, some of whom were used to train its spies.
In 2002, former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang and met with Kim’s father Kim Jong Il, who admitted to the abductions and allowed five of them to return to Japan. However, the talks soon stalled over the fate of the remaining abductees.
Kishida’s proposal for a summit with Kim is seen as a bold move to break the impasse and seek a diplomatic solution to the problems. However, it is unclear how North Korea will respond to his offer, and whether it will agree to meet with him without any conditions.