North Korean State Media Assails Japan for Emphasis on Abductees

(Bloomberg) -- North Korea’s state news agency slammed Japan for insisting on the return of abductees as a condition of normalizing ties, accusing its neighbor of going “against the trend” toward the “building of a bright future” in the run-up to an unprecedented summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

“The reactionaries of Japan are hyping the ‘issue of abduction’ which had already been settled,” KCNA said in a commentary published Saturday. “This is just a mean and foolish behavior to stem the trend of peace on the Korean peninsula,” it added.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly insisted the return of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago must be achieved alongside the abandonment of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles before a settlement can be reached. He has pressed Trump to raise the issue at his summit with Kim.

The Japanese government says at least 17 of its citizens were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. Five were returned in 2002 and Japan says it is not satisfied with North Korea’s explanations about the fate of the others.

KCNA said Japan was in the “wretched plight” of being alienated from developments surrounding the Korean peninsula, something the Abe government denies.

Trump Visit

Abe has sought to strengthen ties with Trump in a bid to ensure that his concerns about the abductees and about mid- and short-range missiles that threaten Japan and not the U.S. are addressed. Trump may visit Japan immediately after his summit with Kim in Singapore on June 12 to draw attention to the strength of the alliance, the Nikkei newspaper reported Sunday.

At Abe’s summit with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Tokyo last week, the three agreed on the need to denuclearize North Korea, but there was no mention of the policy of “maximum pressure” that Japan had sought to maintain.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.