The United States supports Japan's efforts to engage with North Korea, a senior diplomat said Thursday, following a statement from the sister of the country's leader Kim Jong Un not ruling out a visit to Pyongyang by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

"We support any kind of diplomacy and dialogue with (North Korea)," Jung Pak, a U.S. State Department official responsible for North Korean affairs, told reporters. "The abductions issue is one of the most tragic stories we work on and we very strongly support Japan in their efforts to resolve the issue."

Pak made the comments after the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency carried a statement from the leader's powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, saying Kishida may be able to visit Pyongyang if Tokyo does not make the abduction issue an obstacle for the two countries' future 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 said.

Officials of Japan, which has never had diplomatic ties with North Korea, have rushed to read between the lines of the statement that she described as containing "my personal view only."

Kishida, who is struggling with low approval ratings, has expressed his desire to meet with the North Korean leader to resolve the issue of Pyongyang's abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.

In the statement, however, the leader's sister, a vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, reiterated Pyongyang's position that the issue has already been resolved and there is no room for negotiation.

When asked whether there has been close cooperation with Japan on its potential talks with North Korea, Pak said she is confident about the level of coordination and sharing of information that Washington has with Tokyo and Seoul.

"I think it's too soon to say if something might happen, but I think the close coordination and the fact that we talk so frequently is always good to have before something happens," said Pak, who has recently taken on the duties of U.S. special representative for North Korean affairs after Sung Kim's retirement.

Pak, deputy assistant secretary for East Asian affairs, also said the United States, which has been ramping up pressure on Pyongyang over its cyberattacks and rapid development of military capabilities, remains open to dialogue with North Korea but there has been no response.

She believes the North Korean leader has decided "now is not the time to have dialogue and diplomacy, but clearly they're doing that with Russia."

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