Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday made public his determination to have talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a bid to normalize bilateral diplomatic relations.
In a policy speech to the Diet, Abe said he will “act decisively without losing any opportunity” to settle the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by the communist nation decades ago and its nuclear and missile programs.
“(We) should break the shell of mutual mistrust in order to resolve the North Korean nuclear and missile issue, and the most important issue of abduction,” he said. “The goal is to settle the unfortunate history with North Korea and normalize diplomatic relations.”
He added Tokyo will cooperate closely with the international community, including South Korea and the United States, on the matter.
His remarks marked a contrast with those in the previous address a year ago, in which he talked about a stern response to the North’s provocation.
He did not touch on ties with South Korea, which he once described as Japan’s “most important partner.”
Last year, he mentioned President Moon Jae-in by name and said his administration would “intensify a future-oriented partnership for a new era on the existing foundation of international pledges and mutual trust established to date.”
Seoul and Tokyo have been at loggerheads, however, in recent months amid disputes over a series of court rulings in Seoul ordering Japanese firms to provide compensation for Koreans forced to work at their factories during World War II.
The military authorities of the neighboring countries have been in stand-offs as well, as Japanese maritime patrol aircraft flew quite close to South Korean destroyers with no prior notice.
Abe also said he will try to lift Tokyo’s relations with Beijing to a new level through repeated exchanges of summit-level visits.
Chinese President Xi Jinping attended a rare concert by a North Korean state art troupe and met with the delegation’s chief, Chinese state media reported Monday, as the two countries boast close ties ahead of a second summit between the United States and North Korea.
Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, met with Ri Su-yong, vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party’s Central Committee, on Sunday and watched the performance by the North Korean artists, according to China’s Xinhua News Agency.
The art delegation arrived in Beijing on Thursday to stage the first performance by a North Korean art troupe in the neighboring country in three years since the North’s Moranbong Band called off a planned performance in Beijing at the last minute in 2015.
The dispatch came a few weeks after the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, made his fourth visit to China in less than a year and held talks with Xi in an apparent show of strengthening relations between the two countries in the runup to a second summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump set for late next month.
During his meeting with Ri, Xi said the art group’s performance is an important event that celebrates the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relationship between Beijing and Pyongyang, Xinhua said.
Xi also said he and Kim have agreed to further strengthen their ties during their four meetings, and China stands ready to work with the North to implement the “important consensus reached by the two sides, so as to better benefit the two peoples and contribute to world peace, stability, development and prosperity,” according to Xinhua.
Ri expressed his gratitude to Xi for showing interest in the North Korean art troupe’s performance, saying the visit and art performance represented leader “Kim’s deep feelings to Xi and the DPRK people’s profound friendship with the Chinese people,” Xinhua said.