Abe Vows Kim Meeting to Break the Shell of Mutual Distrust

Japan’s prime minister pledged Monday, January 28, to “break the shell of mutual distrust” with North Korea by fulfilling pioneer Kim Jong-un face-to-face and diplomatic relations between both historical foes. In a major policy speech to mark the launch of parliament, Shinzo Abe also vowed to push Sino-Japan ties “into a new stage” and vowed a record budget to improve crumbling infrastructure in the planet’s third-biggest economy.

“I will act appropriately, never neglecting to grab every chance to break the shell of mutual distrust, and that I myself will immediately face Chairman Kim Jong Un next to solve North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues, in addition to the abductions issue,” Abe said. Abe gave no timeframe for a potential meeting with the North Korean leader as Kim has arranged preparation for a summit probably towards the end of next month, but the comments came.

“I will aim at diplomatic normalization by settling the unfortunate past,” Abe said, employing a Western diplomatic euphemism referring to harm brought on by Japan during its brutal colonization of the Korean peninsula prior to and during World War II. The conciliatory message contrasted sharply from one year ago, when Abe used the same parliamentary address to set out a hardline approach, pledging to “compel North Korea to change its policies” and describing Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs as an “unprecedentedly grave and urgent threat.”

Abe has long campaigned to resolve an emotional row linked to representatives’ abduction of Japanese nationals during the Cold War era to train Pyongyang’s spies.

‘Stable peace and prosperity’

On China, Abe said ties had “entirely returned to a regular path” after he visited President Xi Jinping in Beijing last year. Xi is expected to make his first official visit. “I will pursue diplomacy with neighbors to get a new age… in order to make northeast Asia truly a property of stable peace and prosperity,” he explained. Bilateral ties were harmed in 2012 when Tokyo “nationalized” disputed islands in the East China Sea also claimed by Beijing. Until recently, neither nation had made attempt to improve relations.

However, Japan’s business community has urged Abe to improve ties with the biggest source of tourists, who are jointly becoming a key driver of the chronically fragile market of Japan in addition to China, Tokyo trade partner. Japan believes a prosperous Xi visit is a secret to a successful G20, which Japan hosts this season and Tokyo hopes that the Chinese leader will attend the 2020 Olympic Games.

Abe was wary amid a territorial row over tiny islands to Japan’s north which has proved difficult to solve despite encounters. Domestically, Abe vowed to press forward with a consumption tax increase from the current 8% to 10 percent from October.

In addition, he vowed a whopping 7 trillion yen ($64 billion) on infrastructure as the country’s many roads and bridges become dilapidated and Japan routinely faces serious natural disasters like flood and earthquakes.

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