June 18 (UPI) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered some faint praise for North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on Monday and said he would like to end a relationship of mutual distrust with Pyongyang.
Abe, who only a couple months ago had ruled out engagement with North Korea in favor of greater sanctions pressure, is changing his outlook on engagement with the Kim regime following the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim, NHK reported.
“Chairman Kim has leadership ability that was able to realize the U.S.-North Korea summit,” Abe said before a parliamentary committee on Monday. “I would like to break the façade of mutual distrust with North Korea and take one more step to resolve” the abduction issue.
Abe was referring to Japanese citizens kidnapped to North Korea. A dozen abductees are still officially recognized by Tokyo, but Pyongyang has said none are alive.
The Japanese prime minister is expected to meet with Kim in 2018, but a date has not been finalized.
Abe has said he told Trump he encouraged the U.S. president to procure a written statement during the summit.
“At the Japan-U.S. summit in April, I told him it is important for the two leaders to come up with a document,” Abe said, according to NHK.
The statement signed by Trump and Kim indicates the two sides will work on complete denuclearization, and the United States will provide security guarantees.
Kyodo News reported Abe has indicated an interest in taking an active role in denuclearization.
The funding required for the effort should also be shouldered by Japan, the prime minister said.
“As we stand to benefit from denuclearization, we must think about such matters,” Abe said.
Japan previously pledged $1 billion toward a $4.6 billion project after 1994, under the consortium known as the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, or KEDO.