Photo/IllutrationThe 2018 version of the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Bluebook (Tamiyuki Kihara)

  • Photo/Illustraion

The Foreign Ministry will omit the phrase “maximizing pressure on North Korea” from its 2019 Diplomatic Bluebook in another conciliatory move aimed at restarting talks on the abduction issue, government sources said.

The annual document about Japan’s diplomatic policies and the international situation is scheduled to be submitted to a Cabinet meeting on April 23.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had long called for exerting “maximum pressure” to get North Korea to dismantle its nuclear and missile programs. The phrase was included in the 2018 Diplomatic Bluebook.

However, the phrase will not appear in the 2019 version because Japan is stepping up efforts to resolve the issue of Japanese abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.

The 2018 version noted Japan’s policy of using pressure by the international community to push North Korea into resolving the abduction issue, but that phrase will also be altered for the 2019 version, the sources said.

However, the 2019 version will retain Japan’s basic stance: “The normalization of relations with North Korea is impossible without resolving the abduction issue.”

The 2018 version noted that North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles were “grave and imminent threats.” That phrase will be deleted because the country has not conducted a nuclear test or launched a ballistic missile since 2018, the sources said.

In the background of the changes is Abe’s willingness to hold a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to discuss the abduction issue.

“I myself will confront Kim Jong Un the next time,” Abe has said.

In an earlier move to appease Pyongyang, the Japanese government in March decided not to submit a resolution critical of North Korea to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Japan had submitted such resolutions for 11 straight years.

“This was a judgment to show our conciliatory stance toward North Korea,” a senior official of the Foreign Ministry said.

North Korea, which repatriated five Japanese abductees in 2002, has long said the issue has been resolved.

Pyongyang also has not shown a positive reaction to Japan’s decision not to submit the resolution to the U.N. Human Rights Council.