Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his desire to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to start over afresh with Pyongyang and resolve the decades-old row over Japanese nationals’ abductions.
In his speech to the UN General Assembly, Abe said he wished to get over the past tensions between the two nations, Efe news reported.
"North Korea is now at a crossroads at which it will either seize, or fail to seize, the historic opportunity it was afforded," Abe said.
"I am also ready to break the shell of mutual distrust with North Korea, get off to a new start, and meet face to face with Chairman Kim Jong-un," the longtime hardliner on North Korea said.
He said although nothing has been decided yet regarding a summit, he assured there would be a high-level meeting and it would focus on resolving "the abduction issue".
North Korea has admitted in the past to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens between the 1970s and 1980s, five of whom were later returned to Japan. Tokyo, however, maintains that there were at least 17.
Japan proposed in March that North Korea hold a meeting between Kim and Abe, who so far has not taken part in any of the summits on regional rapprochement process with Pyongyang in 2018, such as those held with the North Korean leader and the presidents of the US, China and South Korea.
So far no progress has been made to finalise a Japan-North Korea meet, which according to Tokyo, would also focus on the denuclearisation of North Korea.
The two nations already held two summits in 2002 and 2004 in Pyongyang, when the abduction issue was discussed.
However, it has never been brought up again since and the whereabouts of the other Japanese who Pyongyang kidnapped for its spy training programs still remain unclarified.
Abe said that the country wants all the Japanese hostages to return and that he was determined to make that happen.
The Japanese leader also defended the global "free trade system" and hoped that the US and Japan will maintain the kind of relationship they have had.>