Pyongyang announced that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has requested a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said, "Kishida conveyed his intention to meet personally with the President of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as soon as possible."

"If Japan really wants to improve bilateral relations and contribute to regional peace and stability as a close neighbor of North Korea, it should make a political decision on the strategic option that is in its overall interests," Jong said, adding that the meeting is unlikely without a policy change by Tokyo. 

Last year, Kishida said he was willing to meet with Kim "without any conditions," expressing Tokyo's willingness to resolve all issues, including the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. 

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Kim Yo Jong, one of the regime's top spokesmen, warned last month that Kishida's hopes for improved relations would not materialize if Japan "remains stuck on the abduction issue, which has no further solution." 

"High-level talks with North Korea are important"

Kishida described high-level talks with North Korea as "important". Referring to the abduction incidents that took place in the 1970s and 80s in his speech at the parliament, Kishida said, "In Japan-North Korea relations, high-level talks are important to resolve issues such as the abduction issue. Therefore, we are making various approaches to North Korea at the level directly under my control." 

Relations between the two countries have historically been strained, including over the long-running kidnapping dispute and North Korea's banned weapons programs.

In 2002, North Korea admitted to sending agents to kidnap 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 80s, which was used to train spies in Japanese language and customs.

Following the historic 2002 visit to North Korea by former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Pyongyang repatriated five Japanese citizens.

After assuming the post of Prime Minister in October 2021, Kishida said that he was sorry for the citizens who could not return and that he would seek cooperation from US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in solving the problem.