A new future could be opening up between North Korea

A “new future” could be opening up between North Korea and Japan for Kim’s influential sister

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's influential sister assured Thursday that her country is ready to improve its ties with Japan, even hinting at a possible future invitation to Pyongyang from its prime minister.

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Kim Yo Jong's comments came after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said last week that he felt a “strong need” to change the state of current relations between Tokyo and North Korea.

“I think there would be no reason not to view his recent speech as positive if it is motivated by his true intention to boldly break free from the shackles of the past,” she said in a press release carried by the North's official KCNA news agency.

For Kim Yo Jong, North Korea and Japan can “open a new future together” depending on the measures Japan takes, especially if it manages to get to grips with the long-standing problem of kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Koreans in the 1970s and 1980s .

“There will be no reason for the two countries not to come closer, and the day of the prime minister's visit to Pyongyang may come,” she added.

These kidnappings remain an important and emotional issue in Japan.

North Korea admitted in 2002 that it had sent agents to kidnap 13 Japanese people in the 1970s and 1980s to force them to train its spies in the Japanese language and customs.

However, there are still suspicions in Japan that the number of kidnappings is far higher than those officially recognized.

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last year, Kishida expressed his desire to meet the North Korean leader “without conditions” and said his country was ready to resolve any issues, including the kidnappings.

As Japanese leader, Junichiro Koizumi made a historic visit to Pyongyang in 2002, meeting Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jong Il, and paving the way for normalization of relations with Japan.

This trip resulted in the return of five Japanese from North Korea, followed by a follow-up trip by Mr. Koizumi. However, this diplomatic process ended quickly, particularly because Tokyo feared that North Korea was not acting fairly on the sensitive issue of kidnap victims.