Japan’s Prime Minister Suga Debuts at U.N. with Offer to Meet Kim Jong-un

Newly elected head of Liberal Democratic Party Yoshihide Suga gestures before a press conference at its headquarters after the party's leadership election in Tokyo Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. Suga was elected as the new head of Japan’s ruling party on Monday, all but assuring that he will become the country's …
Nicolas Datiche/Pool Photo via AP

Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide said during a virtual speech at the United Nation’s 75th annual General Assembly on Friday he is “ready to meet” with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a bid to “normalize” relations with Pyongyang.

The speech was Suga’s first at the international body since he was elected prime minister of Japan on September 16.

“Japan seeks to normalize its relationship with North Korea, in accordance with the Japan-DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] Pyongyang Declaration, through comprehensively resolving the outstanding issues of concern such as the abductions, nuclear and missile issues, as well as settlement of the unfortunate past,” Suga said.

He referred to North Korea’s abduction of at least 17 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s, which Pyongyang admitted to in 2002 after more than a decade of public pressure by the Japanese government to provide information on the matter.

According to Japan’s Foreign Ministry, Japan suspected Pyongyang was behind the abductions after “investigations by the Japanese authorities and testimonies by former North Korean agents who had defected revealed that there was a strong possibility that these cases involved abductions conducted by North Korea.”

In October 2002, Pyongyang allowed five abductees to return to Japan. In May 2004, North Korea explicitly committed to “immediately resume thorough investigations to obtain a full account of what had happened to all abductees.” Despite the promise, Pyongyang has failed to provide any “acceptable explanations” about the remaining abductees, according to the Japanese government.

In his U.N. speech on Friday, Suga said Japan was freshly committed to seeking answers and justice for the abductees’ families.

“As the new Prime Minister of Japan, I am ready to meet with Chairman Kim Jong-un without any conditions. Establishing a constructive relationship between Japan and North Korea will not only serve the interests of both sides but will also greatly contribute to regional peace and stability. I will miss no opportunity to take actions with all my dedication,” he vowed.

The prime minister added that Japan will go forward with plans to host next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. The games were originally scheduled for this past summer but were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“In the summer of next year, Japan is determined to host the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games as proof that humanity has defeated the pandemic. I will continue to spare no effort in order to welcome you to Games that are safe and secure,” Suga said.

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