The Japanese government is exploring the possibility of a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Japanese media reported.
Japan is considering a new way of dealing with Pyongyang after US President Donald Trump’s decision to meet Kim, Kyodo News said, citing unidentified government officials. The surprise move by Trump, which followed a similar agreement by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left Japan isolated in its hard-line stance against the regime.
The decision came hours after Abe met with Suh Hoon, a Moon envoy who met the North Korean leader last week, the report said. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to comment on the report on Wednesday, saying instead that Japan was considering its approach to Pyongyang “from the perspective of what will be most effective.”
If confirmed, the move would be a departure for Abe, who has so far advocated “maximum pressure” on the isolated regime. It comes as Abe contends with a domestic scandal
over a land deal that is threatening his bid to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.
“The biggest factor is probably the feeling of Japan suddenly being left out of North Korea developments,” said Mintaro Oba, a former US State Department official who worked on North Korean issues. “But it’s certainly possible it has occurred to the prime minister that this could change the public focus after multiple news cycles of scandal coverage.”
Following Abe’s meeting with Suh in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan, South Korea and the US would cooperate to make the Moon-Kim and Trump-Kim summits happen.
The last time Japanese and North Korean leaders met was in 2004, when former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi met with Kim’s father in Pyongyang. Abe traveled to the North Korean capital with Koizumi as his chief cabinet secretary.