US Indo-Pacific commander assures Japan over North Korean denuclearisation
Japan is working on arranging a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with one possibility including the premier's visit to Pyongyang around August, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Thursday.
Citing multiple government sources, the paper said officials from the two countries had been in contact several times in recent months to negotiate a possible meeting between the two leaders.
U.S. President Donald Trump this week agreed to halt joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises after meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, drills Japan's defence minister said were "vital" for East Asian security.
North Korea fired at least two missiles over Japan last year as it sought to develop a weapon capable of reaching the U.S. mainland with a nuclear warhead.
Japan is expected to contribute towards the costs of North Korea's denuclearisation but only after the International Atomic Energy Agency restarts inspections, a spokesman said on Wednesday.
Abe has made the resolution of the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea a political pledge, and has said Japan would hold back economic assistance until those issues, along with denuclearisation, are resolved.
If Abe's visit to Pyongyang proves difficult, Japan is eyeing another scenario for Abe to meet Kim on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum to be held in September in Vladivostok, if the North Korean leader attends, the paper said.
A government source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Japanese officials planned to discuss the summit meeting with North Korean officials at an international conference on Northeast Asian security to be held on Thursday and Friday in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
The person added that it was still unclear whether Abe would attend the conference in Vladivostok in September, when his ruling Liberal Democratic Party is due hold a leadership race.