N. Korea says Japan’s Kishida has offered to meet with Kim Jong-un

Posted on : 2024-03-26 17:14 KST Modified on : 2024-03-26 17:14 KST
Kim Yo-jong put the ball in Japan’s court by calling on Tokyo to make a “political decision”
Kim Yo-jong, a high-ranking figure in the Workers’ Party of Korea. (KCNA/Yonhap file photo)
Kim Yo-jong, a high-ranking figure in the Workers’ Party of Korea. (KCNA/Yonhap file photo)

North Korea said that Japan’s prime minister has reached out in an effort to meet with leader Kim Jong-un.

In an English-language statement published on Monday by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a state-run news organ, Kim Yo-jong, a senior official in the Workers' Party of Korea and the sister of Kim Jong-un, said, “Shortly ago, Kishida, through another channel, conveyed his intention to personally meet the President of the State Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as soon as possible.”

“Last month,” Kim Yo-jong stated, “I gave my view on the fact that Japanese Prime Minister Kishida expressed his desire for DPRK-Japan summit talks at the Diet.” Kim Yo-jong hinted at the possibility of improved relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang in a KCNA statement on Feb. 15. Her latest statement on Monday claims that Japan has consistently reached out to set up a summit.

Kim’s statement on Feb. 15 referred to Kishida’s address to the Japanese parliament, during which he declared, “We need to take a bold step to change the status quo” regarding North Korea.

Kim Yo-jong said that “the day of the prime minister's Pyongyang visit might come.”

However, she warned that “the history of the DPRK-Japan relations gives a lesson that it is impossible to improve the bilateral relations full of distrust and misunderstanding, only with an idea to set out on a summit meeting.”

If Japan truly wants to make a summit happen, she continued, Tokyo must make a “political decision for strategic option conformed to its overall interests.”

If Japan continues to interfere with “the exercise of our sovereign right” — the right to ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests, that is — and continues to be “engrossed” in the issue of abducted Japanese nationals, Kim declared, Kishida’s proposal to meet with Kim Jong-un is nothing more than a “bid for popularity.”

Regarding its relations with Pyongyang, Tokyo has stated its intentions to partake in “dialogue under no preconditions” while calling for the return of abducted Japanese citizens and for negotiations concerning North Korea’s missile launches and nuclear weapons. Kim Yo-jong, however, flatly declared in her Feb. 15 statement that the abduction issue has “already been settled,” signaling that Pyongyang has no intentions to negotiate the repatriation of the abducted Japanese nationals. Kim also made it clear on this day that Pyongyang’s missiles and nuclear weapons “have nothing to do with the repair of DPRK-Japan relations.”

Kim Yo-jong essentially rehashed this position in her latest statement, ultimately putting the ball in Japan’s court by calling on Tokyo to make a “political decision.” 

It is notable, however, that Kim Jong-un sent a personal message of condolence on Jan. 5 regarding the earthquake in Ishikawa Prefecture. His sister then dedicated personal statements about a summit with Japan in the two following months (Feb. 15, March 25). It is clear the two sides are engaged in a chess match over a potential summit.

Shortly after Kim Yo-jong's latest statement was released, Kishida confirmed to reporters that he has reached out to North Korea but that "nothing has been decided so far on whether a summit will be realized."

During the meeting of the Japanese parliament’s budget committee on Monday, Kishida reportedly stressed the importance of a Tokyo-Pyongyang summit to secure the repatriation of Japanese nationals who were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 80s.

“It’s important to hold a summit to solve the issues at hand, and as I’ve said before, I’ve been responding to North Korea’s various statements and actions under my authority as prime minister,” Kishida said.

“It looks like the Japanese and North Korean governments have yet to reach a concrete compromise, but it’s notable that high-level talks are going on both publicly and behind the scenes,” said a former senior South Korean government official.

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer; Kim So-youn, Tokyo correspondent

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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