TOKYO -- Kim Jong Un showed himself open to a suggestion that he meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during Tuesday's summit between the North Korean leader and U.S. President Donald Trump, Japanese government officials said Thursday.
Trump told Abe of Kim's stance during a call Tuesday following the summit, they said. Japanese officials will analyze Kim's intentions as well as start behind-the-scenes negotiations with North Korean counterparts to explore ways to realize a summit, they said.
On Thursday afternoon, Abe met with relatives of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents, at the prime minister's office in Tokyo. He expressed his resolve to end the issue, a lingering irritant between the two countries.
Earlier in the day, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, in Seoul for a meeting with his U.S. and South Korean counterparts, said he hoped an Abe-Kim summit will materialize in a way that will lead to resolution of the issue of the kidnapped Japanese nationals. "There's going to be a lot of arrangements to make," he added.
A senior official of Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently in Ulaanbaatar for a two-day international conference through Friday. The official could make contact with the North Korean delegation there on the sidelines, according to a government source.
North Korea officially maintains that the abductee issue has already been resolved. But Kim reportedly did not reiterate this position during the Trump-Kim summit Tuesday. The Japanese government is trying to analyze Kim's statements and behaviors to ascertain his true intentions.
Abe seems to be shifting to optimism about realizing a summit with Kim. Nevertheless, the Japanese prime minister has repeatedly insisted that he will not accept dialogue for the sake of dialogue, and a summit will not happen unless it is expected to bring concrete progress on resolving the abductee issue.
After the Tuesday summit in Singapore, Abe was briefed by Trump in a telephone conversation, during which the American leader "clearly conveyed to Chairman Kim the thinking I conveyed to Mr. Trump," Abe told reporters. But Abe declined to provide details.
If it happens, the Abe-Kim summit will be the first between the leaders from the two countries since the 2004 meeting between Japan's Junichiro Koizumi and then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
During the press briefing on Thursday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed his hope for a summit that could lead to resolving numerous ongoing issues. He insisted that a Japan-North Korea summit would have to help resolve the North's missile and nuclear threats, and more importantly, the abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.