The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to Pyongyang is possible if Tokyo does not make the issue of the past abductions of Japanese nationals an obstacle between the two countries, state-run media reported Thursday.

Kim Yo Jong's remarks came after Kishida said late last week that Tokyo has been making "various, concrete" efforts to realize a summit with Kim Jong Un, aiming to resolve the long-standing abduction issue.

File photo taken in February 2018 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) and his sister Kim Yo Jong. (Photo courtesy of Korea Media)(Kyodo)

But the sister, who is a senior official of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party of Korea, claimed in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency that the issue of the abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s has been already "settled."

Kim Yo Jong also said, "This is just my personal view only and I am not in the position to officially comment on the relations between the DPRK and Japan," referring to the acronym of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.

She added, "I think our state leadership still has no idea of repairing the DPRK-Japan relations and has no interest in contact."

Kim Yo Jong, meanwhile, quoted Kishida as saying he "feels the need to boldly change the present situation prevailing" between Japan and North Korea, adding, "There would be no reason not to appreciate his recent speech as a positive one."

"Only a politician, who has sagacity and strategic insight for looking far into the future, instead of sticking to the past, and the will and executive power to make a political decision, can take an opportunity and change history," she said.

If Japan does not lay a "stumbling block as the already settled abduction issue in the future way for mending the bilateral relations, there will be no reason for the two countries not to become close and the day of the prime minister's Pyongyang visit might come," she added.

Later Thursday, a Japanese government source said Kim Yo Jong's statement "is extremely unusual. We need to carefully analyze what she meant."

In 2002, Junichiro Koizumi became the first Japanese prime minister to make a trip to Pyongyang when he visited North Korea, leading to the return of five abductees to Japan. He revisited the nation in 2004.

Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic ties, but Koizumi signed a historic declaration with the late leader Kim Jong Il, father of Kim Jong Un, on Sept. 17, 2002.

Under the Pyongyang Declaration, the two Asian countries agreed to make "every possible effort for an early normalization of relations," and Japan pledged to extend economic cooperation to North Korea once ties were normalized.

Koizumi also drew North Korea's first formal apology for its past abductions of Japanese nationals. Tokyo has been seeking the return of 12 others whom it has officially recognized as having been abducted by Pyongyang.

In May 2023, Kishida made a sudden commitment to establish high-level negotiations between Japan and North Korea to pave the way for an early summit with Kim Jong Un, although he has not elaborated on what kind of official talks he envisions.

Since its foundation in 1948, North Korea has kept up stern rhetoric against Japan to promote the nation's communist propaganda. It has also demanded that Tokyo pay post-World War II compensation. Japan colonized Korea from 1910 through the end of the war in 1945.

Kim Jong Un, however, sent a message of sympathy to Kishida in early January over a deadly earthquake that hit central Japan on New Year's Day, the KCNA said. It is rare for a Japanese prime minister to receive a message from a North Korean leader.

In May 2014, when Kishida served as foreign minister, Japan and North Korea reached an accord in Stockholm over principles for negotiations on settling the abduction issue. Japan relaxed its sanctions on Pyongyang, which in turn promised to launch a full-scale investigation into the matter.

Nevertheless, North Korea repeatedly postponed releasing the survey results. The country then disbanded its investigation team and suspended its probe after Japan levied further sanctions in February 2016 in reaction to Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests.

North Korea is banned from launching ballistic missiles under U.N. Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on the nuclear-armed nation.

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