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International Relations

Moon asks Japan to help in denuclearization of Korean Peninsula

Seoul willing to aid Tokyo in resolving abductee issue with North Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, right, shakes hands with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono prior to their meeting in Seoul on April 11.   © Reuters/Pool

SEOUL -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in asked Japan to play an active role in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, stressing close cooperation between the two countries ahead of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in two weeks.

Moon informed Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Wednesday that Seoul is willing to help Tokyo resolve the abductee issue with North Korea, accepting Kono's request for cooperation. But it has not been confirmed whether Moon will raise the issue with Kim.

Japan wants its neighbor to help address the kidnappings, which took place in the 1970s and 1980s, while also pressing the North over its nuclear and missile programs. 

"President Moon said that close cooperation between South Korea and Japan is important for the success of the inter-Korea and North Korea-U.S. summits," said Moon's spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom in a statement. "He also asked Japan to play a constructive role for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and sustainable peace [in the region]."

The comments come amid Moon's preparations for a meeting with Kim at Panmunjom inside the Demilitarized Zone on April 27. The two Koreas will discuss ways for North Korea to abandon its nuclear missile program, paving the way for Kim's summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in May or early June.

Kono showed his appreciation for South Korea promoting the two summits, and hoped that Tokyo could cooperate closely with Seoul in resolving the North Korean nuclear missile threat.

Moon also appreciated Japan's efforts to host a trilateral summit between South Korea, China and Japan scheduled for Tokyo next month. He vowed to help Japan host the meeting.

Earlier in the day, Kono met with his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha. The two discussed bilateral relations and the North Korean issue. The two ministers agreed to further improve cooperation this year as they celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Kim-Obuchi declaration.

The agreement, signed by South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi in 1998, paved the way for improved relations between the two countries, looking beyond Japan's 35-year colonization of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.

For Japan, the abductee issue is a political priority. Earlier this month Prime Minister Abe said, "I will request in person that President Trump raise the abduction issue, which is the most important question [for Japan], during the upcoming U.S.-North Korean summit."

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