In an unusual leak last week, Japanese intelligence officials close the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held secret meetings with North Korean counterparts in Mongolia in October, sources close to these talks said. The Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar was the staging area for a meeting that is said to lay the groundwork for a possible summit between Japanese Prime Minister Abe and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Those of us who follow Japan North Korean history know that the key sticking point has been the North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.
According to reports, Kim Jong Un has, for some reason, kept some distance with Japan, meeting Chinese, US with plans to meet Russian officials – Putin later this year. Mr Abe is last on the list of Kim*s meetings. The Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office headed by Mr Shigeru Kitamura (advisor to PM Abe), represented Japan in Mongolia around the October 6 to 8 period, but details are not fully known. Senior officials from North Korea were present but details are not known.
There is confirmation that the meeting took place – this is the first meeting of its kind in 3 months. Other talks between Japan and North Korea have quietly taken place in other parts of Asia including a July meeting in Vietnam. Japan has suggested that it would place an office in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital in the future.
Japan has pressed North Korea on 17 nationals who disappeared in the 1980s and is still waiting for information on their fate. Five have been returned to Japan. Japanese officials are pressing to solve the abduction issue and the missile issue – some fired over Japan airspace – at the same time in future talks.
Clearly the US and Japan are working behind the scenes to warm up frosty relations with North Korea.