June 14 (UPI) — Officials from Tokyo and Pyongyang met informally on the sidelines of the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue in Mongolia, Japanese media reported, possibly to address the issue of abducted Japanese citizens.
Kyodo News reported Thursday that Fumio Shimizu, deputy director general at the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, met this week with a North Korean official affiliated with the “disarmament and peace research institute” at Pyongyang’s foreign ministry.
The meeting was held after Kim Jong Un told U.S. President Donald Trump that he would like to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to the Sankei Shimbun.
It is unclear when Abe would meet with Kim, but the Yomiuri Shimbun reported this week several behind-the-scenes negotiations have taken place between Tokyo and Pyongyang.
There is a possibility Abe could visit Pyongyang in August, or meet with Kim in September at the annual Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, according to South Korean network Chosun TV.
“We hope bilateral talks will be held as a stepping stone to resolving various issues, including the issue of abductions,” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Thursday in Seoul.
In Tokyo, Abe met with families of abduction victims.
“This issue will be settled through direct talks with Chairman Kim,” Abe told the families Thursday.
Japan is preparing a package of measures that include covering the cost of IAEA nuclear inspections, humanitarian assistance conditional upon resolving the abduction issue and economic cooperation after diplomatic normalization.
Japan believes North Korea abducted 17 people from Japanese coastal areas between 1977 and 1983. The victims were kidnapped for a variety of purposes, including teaching Japanese to North Korean spies. North Korea had admitted to abducting 13.