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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

North Korea and Japan must normalise ties, says South Korea's Moon

Peace between Tokyo and Pyongyang would change northeast Asia, the PM said

A handout photo made available by Cheong Wa Dae (the South Korean presidential office) shows South Korean President Moon Jae-in (2-L) chairing a cabinet meeting at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae (or Blue House) in Seoul, South Korea 08 May 2018. Moon marks his first year in office on 10 May. Cheong Wa Dae / EPA
A handout photo made available by Cheong Wa Dae (the South Korean presidential office) shows South Korean President Moon Jae-in (2-L) chairing a cabinet meeting at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae (or Blue House) in Seoul, South Korea 08 May 2018. Moon marks his first year in office on 10 May. Cheong Wa Dae / EPA

Japan and North Korea should begin talks to normalise relations between the two countries and contribute to peace and stability in the region, South Korean President Moon Jae-in told a Japanese newspaper on Tuesday.

"In particular, I think dialogue between Japan and North Korea should be resumed," Mr Moon said in the interview with the Yomiuri newspaper.

"If Japan-North Korea relations are normalised, that would greatly contribute to peace and security in Northeast Asia beyond the Korean peninsula," he said in written answers to questions submitted by the newspaper.

At Moon's summit last month with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, both sides agreed to work towards denuclearisation. Kim said during that meeting he was "ready to have a dialogue with Japan anytime," Mr Moon told the newspaper.

There was no immediate comment from the Japanese government, which has called Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and missile programmes the toughest security threat facing Japan since World War Two.

Moon's interview was conducted ahead of a summit on Wednesday between Moon, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Tokyo.

North Korea was expected to be high on the agenda but a Chinese diplomat said last week the talks were about regional cooperation and not focused on the Korean peninsula

Nevertheless, months of frosty relations between Beijing and Pyongyang appear to have thawed since Kim's secretive visit to Beijing in March, where he met Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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Analysts said Mr Kim's meeting with Xi strengthened North Korea's negotiating position by aligning the two nations ahead of Kim's summit with US President Donald Trump in the coming weeks.

A high-ranking North Korean official visited the Chinese city of Dalian this week, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said on Tuesday, citing multiple anonymous sources.

The North Korean official flew in a private plane and arrived at Dalian airport on Monday amid heavy security, Yonhap said. It did not identify the official.

In the interview, Mr Moon said Mr Kim's desire for "complete denuclearisation" laid the groundwork for the future summit between the United States and North Korea, although it remained to be seen if concrete steps were agreed at the talks.

Trump has said he will maintain sanctions and pressure on the North and "not repeat the mistakes of past administrations", and has said his tough stance had led to the breakthrough.

Moon said Mr Kim was "a very open and practical person" and both leaders had a mutual goal for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

"From now on, based on our deep mutual trust, we'll make bold steps toward peace and prosperity, and unification," Mr Moon said.

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