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North Korea leader's sister says Japan PM's comments positive -KCNA
North Korea leader's sister says Japan PM's comments positive -KCNA
Asia
North Korea leader's sister says Japan PM's comments positive -KCNA
by DZRH News16 February 2024
FILE PHOTO: Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, arrives at the Vostochny Сosmodrome before a meeting of Russia's President Vladimir Putin with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, in the far eastern Amur region, Russia, September 13, 2023. Sputnik/Vladimir Smirnov/Pool via REUTERS

SEOUL (Reuters) -The influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that there is no impediment to closer ties with Japan and that there may come a day Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visits Pyongyang, state news agency KCNA said on Thursday.

Kishida, whose nation has no formal diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, has said he was exploring possibilities to meet North Korea's leader to resolve the matter of Japanese civilians abducted in the 1970s and 1980s.

Kim Yo Jong, a deputy department director in the ruling Workers' Party, said Kishida's comments could be considered positive if they were meant to advance relations.

"If Japan ... makes a political decision to open a new path for improving ties based on mutual respect and respectful behaviour, it is my view that the two countries can open a new future," she was quoted as saying.

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Japan has been critical of North Korea's pursuit of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, often drawing harsh rebukes from Pyongyang, especially as Tokyo has stepped up its security alliance with South Korea and the United States.

The Japanese government noted Kim Yo Jong's remarks but is refraining from commenting further, including how Tokyo sees them, said chief cabinet secretary and top government spokesperson Yoshimasa Hayashi.

Japan cannot accept North Korea's position that the abduction issue has been resolved, Hayashi said.

"Our stance of comprehensively resolving issues (with North Korea) such as abductions, nuclear (weapons) and missiles remains unchanged," Hayashi said.

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Kim added that her view was a personal observation and that as far as she knew, the North's leadership had no specific plans for relations with Japan or to make contact with Tokyo, KCNA said.

Kim is widely considered the closest confidant and adviser to her brother on external policy matters.

U.S. Senior Official for North Korea Jung Pak told reporters Washington supports any diplomacy with Kim's government, which has not responded to repeated U.S. offers to engage in talks without preconditions since President Joe Biden took office in 2021.

"They've shut their borders since January 2020 and we support... any diplomacy there," Pak said in a briefing at the State Department.

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"Any kind of diplomacy that DPRK does, that's not Russia, is a positive thing," she said in a reference to Pyongyang's growing cooperation with Moscow, which has alarmed Washington.

Another U.S. official has said Washington wanted Japan to ensure it had "smoothed over" a possible meeting between Kim and Kishida with South Korea. The U.S. has worked to develop three-way coordination of policy on North Korea and other security issues among itself, Japan and South Korea.

Pak said she could not say whether North Korea's willingness to speak to Japan could be linked to Seoul's recent move to establish diplomatic ties with the North's longtime ally Cuba, but added: "I think Pyongyang has always been interested in driving a wedge in our relationships or in the relationships between Japan and other countries and Korea and other countries."

(Reporting by Jack Kim; additional reporting by Simon Lewis in Washington and Satoshi Sugiyama in Tokyo; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, David Gregorio and Gerry Doyle)

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