SINGAPORE--Japan informed North Korea on Aug. 3 of its readiness to hold summit talks between their respective leaders at the earliest opportunity.

Japan's offer, made by Foreign Minister Taro Kono, was the first high-level contact between officials of the two countries since historic U.S.-North Korea talks here in June.

Kono was visiting Singapore to attend ASEAN-related foreign ministers' meetings when he talked with his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong Ho, at an anteroom outside the venue for the banquet for delegates to the ASEAN Regional Forum after the function began around 7:30 p.m.

Kono told reporters that he conveyed “Japan’s basic stance” to Ri, referring to Tokyo's insistence on resolving the decades-old issue of abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents and Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program before moving to normalize diplomatic relations.

Japan insists that terms agreed to in 2002 in the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration be fulfilled.

Kono is believed to have made clear to Ri that Tokyo will provide Pyongyang with economic assistance if the two countries normalize their ties.

Although Ri is not in charge of his country’s policy toward Japan, Kono’s gesture reflects Tokyo's eagerness to use any encounter with a high-ranking official from North Korea to convey its hopes of having summit talks.

Kono did not discuss Ri’s reaction.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed his officials to work toward talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after U.S. President Donald Trump met with Kim in Singapore in early June.

“I will never miss whatever chance that will be available,” Abe spoke of a possible meeting with Kim.

Japanese government officials are pursuing the possibility of talks if Kim attends the Eastern Economic forum in Vladivostok in Russia in September. The annual international meeting is held there to discuss foreign investment in Russia’s Far East region.

(This article was written by Tamiyuki Kihara and Nobuhiko Tajima in Singapore.)