|This combined undated photo shows Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo by=Kyodo)|
[Asia News Communication = Reporter Reakkana] Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed understanding of Japan's concern over the issue of North Korea's past abductions during his first talks with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga over the phone last month, diplomatic sources said Saturday.
As Sino-U.S. tensions escalated, Xi apparently tried to keep up stable relations with Japan by voicing an interest in the abduction issue, which Suga has pledged to resolve as his highest priority, the sources familiar with bilateral ties said. It is believed that Xi told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their meeting in June 2019 about the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's stance on relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang. As premier, Abe called tackling the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s his "life's work."
After five abductees went back to Japan in 2002, Tokyo has sought the return of 12 others whom it has officially recognized as having been abducted by North Korean agents. It also suspects Pyongyang's involvement in other Japanese citizens' disappearances. But North Korea has claimed that the abduction issue has been "already resolved," saying eight of them have died and the other four never entered the country. Sources quoted Xi telling Suga that China "hopes Japan and North Korea will resolve the abduction issue through dialogue."