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Pyongyang rebukes Tokyo over summit offer

June 04,2019
North Korea appeared to rebuff Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s offer to hold a summit with its leader Kim Jong-un, with one of its officials balking at the Abe administration’s “brazen-faced” proposal in an interview on Sunday.

A spokesman for the Korea-Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (Kappc), the North’s semi-official agency used to engage other countries in Asia, gave the country’s first response to Abe’s summit offer. His remarks were published by the state-run Korea Central News Agency (KCNA).

“The Abe group is talking about the ‘opening of summit talks without precondition’ while desperately hurting the DPRK, which is a height of brazen-facedness,” the spokesperson said, referring to the North by the acronym for its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“They make demands as if they have control over life and death,” the spokesman said in response to Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono’s recent remarks that sanctions on the North can only be lifted with the “right decision” from Pyongyang. “The party that needs to make the decision to wipe clean its past evils is Japan.”

In an interview with the Sankei Shimbun newspaper early last month, Abe said he would like to have “truthful and open discussions” with Kim, mainly regarding the issue of Japanese abductees by North Korea.

According to Hideshi Mitani, a former special intelligence adviser to the Japanese cabinet, U.S. President Donald Trump delivered Abe’s wishes to hold a summit with Kim to discuss the abductee issue at least three times over the past year.

Mitani told the JoongAng Ilbo that he believed another North Korea-U.S. summit was due within the year, given that Kim has said he would wait until the end of the year to see how its dialogue with the United States would pan out.

“The abductee issue, however, must not get in the way of progress on the nuclear or missile issue,” Mitani said, adding that the role of a “Sherpa,” referring to working level negotiators, was important in driving the talks forward.

Such comments from one of Tokyo’s most experienced officials on North Korea policy suggests that Tokyo may be in contact with North Korea through informal channels in an effort to arrange a meeting between their leaders. When former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi first visited Pyongyang in 2002, over a years’ worth of informal contact was believed to have taken place between the two parties.

According to Japanese news agency Kyodo News, Abe’s drive to hold a summit with Kim are stoking concerns among government officials in Tokyo over the direction of the cabinet’s foreign policy amid the regime’s continuing provocations, such as its short-range missile launches on May 4 and 9. In light of this possible engagement, the remarks by the Kappc spokesman could be seen as an attempt to gain the upper hand in preparation for a summit rather than a rejection of the proposal altogether.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK, YONHAP [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]