VLADIVOSTOK -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday he wants to improve and normalize Japan's relations with North Korea through direct talks with the North's leader Kim Jong-un.
The remark, made during a meeting with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia's Far East city of Vladivostok, is the latest in a series of comments Abe has made expressing hope for a summit with the North.
"I have a will to improve or normalize relations between Japan and North Korea. This is an issue that I and Kim Jong-un should resolve directly," Abe said during the talks with Lee, according to South Korean officials.
Abe made a similar remark on Monday when he met with South Korea's intelligence agency chief, Suh Hoon, in Tokyo. Suh paid a visit to Abe to brief him on the results of a visit to North Korea last week by South Korea's presidential envoys.
Abe was also quoted as saying that Japan's position remains unchanged in that it wants to normalize relations with the North after comprehensively resolving the issues of North Korean missiles and Pyongyang's past abductions of Japanese citizens and liquidating the "unfortunate past," which references Japan's colonial rule of Korea.
Abe also said that he agrees with US President Donald Trump's position of formulating policy in consideration of North Korea's future, saying the North's future will be bright if it implements the right policy, as the country has rich resources and diligent people, according to South Korean officials.
Stressing the need for the North's complete denuclearization for regional peace and stability, Abe also said he appreciates Seoul's consistent efforts to improve inter-Korean relations and play a bridging role between the US and the North.
Abe called for continued close cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo, as well as trilaterally with the US.
Lee said that improvement in relations between Japan and the North will contribute greatly to peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia and that he looks forward to talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang, to which the South is willing to provide necessary support.
"The South Korean government has been explaining to North Korea that it's necessary to resolve the abduction issue if relations between Japan and North Korea are to improve," Lee said.
Lee also stressed the importance of cooperation with Japan and the US in denuclearization efforts.
"The South Korean government has never forgotten, even for a moment, that cooperation from the international community, including the US and Japan, is essential in realizing the Korean Peninsula's denuclearization and peace," he said.
Lee said the South will keep Abe up to date every time there is a new development in inter-Korean ties.
Referring to an upcoming third summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un set for later this month, Lee also said the meeting is expected to produce meaningful progress in efforts to realize peace and denuclearization and should contribute to the resumption of talks between the US and the North.
Abe was quoted as saying that he hopes the third inter-Korean summit will help move US-North Korea relations forward and produce specific progress in North Korea's denuclearization and that Japan will provide cooperation for the talks' success.
The two sides agreed that the two countries should work together to realize peace and stability in Northeast Asia, revitalize economic cooperation between the two countries and jointly tackle environmental and other global issues.
Abe expressed thanks for President Moon sending him a warm message of sympathy after Japan was hit by a powerful typhoon and an earthquake last week. He also said he will work closely with Moon to boost relations between the two countries. (Yonhap)