Japan in contact with North Korea through Beijing embassy

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  March 22, 2018 at 10:49 AM
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March 22 (UPI) -- The Japanese government says it has been "exchanging views" with North Korea ahead of planned summits between North Korea, the United States and South Korea.

It is a rapidly developing sign the country is interested in detente, only weeks after expressing skepticism and holding missile evacuation drills.

In a rare admission regarding Tokyo's engagement with Pyongyang, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan has been in "various ways, exchanging views with North Korea," South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Thursday.

"We have been exchanging views with North Korea through the use of our Beijing embassy channel as well as through government-to-government bilateral negotiations," Suga said, adding there have been "various opportunities and means" to approach North Korea.

The Japanese spokesman also said any engagement with North Korea does not change Tokyo's policy of exerting pressure on Pyongyang over its weapons development and abductions of Japanese citizens.

Tokyo stands in solidarity with the United States and South Korea in order to respond to the North, Suga said.

"We will respond, in terms of what is most effective," Suga said, suggesting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration is pursuing a pragmatic policy approach to North Korea.

Abe, who previously expressed wariness of the detente between North and South Korea, has changed his approach to North Korea.

Abe has expressed hopes of a summit with Kim Jong Un, Kyodo News reported Thursday.

Japan has frequently defined countries in the region, like China and North Korea, as security threats that need to be addressed with a more powerful military.

But in a year the country is observing the 40th anniversary of a peace and friendship treaty with China, Tokyo is taking a more diplomatic approach to relations with Beijing.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported Thursday Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono offered to loan China a panda currently kept at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo.

The "panda loan" is part of Japanese efforts to improve relations with China, according to the report.

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