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International relations

Suga 'ready to meet Kim Jong Un without any conditions'

Japanese leader debuts at UN, determined to host Tokyo Olympics

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga delivers his prerecorded speech to the U.N. on Sept. 25. (Image courtesy of the United Nations)

NEW YORK -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga vowed to "miss no opportunity" to establish a constructive relationship with North Korea in his prerecorded maiden United Nations speech streamed Friday.

"I am ready to meet with Chairman Kim Jong Un without any conditions," he said after noting that Japan seeks to normalize its relationship with Pyongyang. Good relations with the Hermit Kingdom will not only serve the interests of both sides, but also greatly contribute to regional peace and stability, he said.

But the new prime minister's message to Pyongyang was less an olive branch than driven by a determination to resolve the abduction issue, which his predecessor Shinzo Abe singled out as his biggest regret.

"The issue of abductions by North Korea is a matter of serious concern for the international community," he said. "I myself have worked on this issue for many years."

The Japanese government has identified 17 nationals as having been abducted in the 1970s and '80s. Only two of their parents are still alive.

Shigeru Yokota -- the father of Megumi Yokota, who was kidnapped at age 13 on her way home from school in 1977, died in June. He was 87.

"This year, two parents of the victims passed away," Suga said. "It is heartbreaking to imagine the pain of the family members who passed, after working so hard to rescue their dearest children and yet not achieving a reunion in the end."

"As the families of the victims continue to age, there is no time to lose before we resolve the abduction issue," he continued.

Suga said Japan seeks to normalize its relationship with North Korea through comprehensively resolving the abduction, nuclear and missile issues, "as well as settlement of the unfortunate past."

On the postponed Tokyo Olympics, Suga said Japan is determined to host the event "as proof that humanity has defeated the pandemic." He said that he will spare no effort in order to welcome guests from around the world to the Games that are "safe and secure."

Regarding the U.N. itself, he expressed great respect for its activities and efforts thus far but stressed that the body "is in need of neutral and fair governance more than ever."

"U.N. reform, including the reform of the Security Council to reflect the realities of the 21st century, is an urgent task" as the New York-based body marks its 75th anniversary, Suga added.

He called the World Health Organization "key in our collective response to infectious diseases." Through its review and reform, "I believe the WHO will be able to make even better use of necessary expertise at the right time, in the right manner," he said.

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