Japan and North Korea held secret meeting in Ulaanbaatar
A secret meeting was reportedly held between high-ranking Japanese intelligence official Shigeru Kitamura and a North Korean senior official in Ulaanbaatar regarding the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, reported Kyodo News.
Beginning in the 1977, North Korean agents began abducting Japanese citizens living in the coastal areas. The Japanese government has officially recognized 17 people as having been abducted but there is evidence that there may have been hundreds of victims.
North Korea only confessed to having abducted 13 Japanese citizens and has said that the issue has been resolved after it returned five victims. However, the Japanese government has still maintained that the issue has not been resolved. Negotiations to return Japanese citizens back to Japan have been ongoing for decades.
Shigeru Kitamura is believed to have met with a North Korean senior official in Ulaanbaatar from October 6 to 8. Kitamura is the head of the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office, and a close associate of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Kyodo news agency reported, citing informed sources.
On the North Korean side, the unnamed official is reportedly a senior figure from the United Front Department of the Workers' Party.
The meeting could be consistent with Abe's stated desire to arrange a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after he receives assurances about progress on the long-standing issue of abductions of Japanese nationals by Pyongyang in the 1970s and 1980s, Kyodo said.
Admitting that the meeting took place, a senior Japanese government official told Kyodo News, "I heard they discussed how the abduction issue should be solved between Japan and North Korea."
"I heard they discussed how the abduction issue should be solved between Japan and North Korea," a Japanese senior government official told the agency, admitting that the meeting in the Mongolian capital took place.
According to the agency, North Korea had unofficially notified Japan that Minoru Tanaka, one of the 17 Japanese nationals believed to have been abducted by Pyongyang decades ago, had actually entered North Korea.
Kitamura might have covered the issue of whereabouts of Tanaka and other abductees during the talks in Mongolia, the news outlet has predicted. Kyodo noted that the meeting between Japanese and North Korean intelligence officials has been the first talks of this kind in around three months following Kitamura's meeting with Kim Song Hye, the head of the United Front Department's tactical office in Vietnam in mid-July.