Japan and North Korea officials have met in 2018, after families of Japanese citizens (pictured) abducted to North Korea spoke at the United Nations, calling for their release. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 5 (UPI) -- The prime minister of Mongolia is visiting Japan next week to discuss the issue of Japanese abductees in North Korea, according to a Japanese press report.
Mongolian Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh has played a key role in ongoing negotiations between senior Japanese intelligence agents and North Korean officials, permitting the meetings to take place in Ulaanbaatar in 2018 -- most recently in November.
Kyodo News reported diplomatic sources on both sides say if the summit between Khürelsükh and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe does take place as planned, the two leaders are to discuss cooperation on resolving the issue of abducted Japanese citizens.
Abe may also stress the importance of maintaining economic pressure on North Korea through sanctions, according to Kyodo.
Abe has said he is open to a summit with Kim Jong Un, but North Korea has not responded to requests.
North Korean and Japanese officials have been quietly meeting behind the scenes, however. The meetings may have consistently taken place in Mongolia, since June, when the two sides met in Ulaanbaatar during an international conference.
North Korea has turned down offers of a summit with Abe, citing poor relations that have its origins in history.
Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, and North Korea officially credits founder Kim Il Sung with ending colonization -- although Japan left the peninsula after surrendering to the United States.
Anti-colonial guerrilla fighters are revered in the North and their death is publicly memorialized.
Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported Wednesday a veteran of a past anti-Japanese movement had died, and that the North Korean leader had sent flowers to his family.
Kim Chol Man was a member of the Korean Workers' Party's central committee and died on Monday at the age of 98, according to the Rodong.