Trilateral summit statement to address resolution of North Korea’s abduction issue

Sources reveal discussions in the upcoming trilateral summit statement to potentially address the resolution of North Korea’s abduction of South Korean nationals, signalling a renewed diplomatic push for resolution.

South Korea is engaged in discussions with China and Japan to include a clause addressing the resolution of North Korea’s abduction and detention of South Korean nationals in a joint statement during their upcoming trilateral summit. Multiple sources within the Seoul government revealed this information on Friday.

President Yoon Suk Yeol is scheduled to meet with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Seoul on Monday, marking the resumption of a long-stalled trilateral summit after a hiatus of 4 and a half years. The ninth iteration of this summit will consider adopting either a joint statement or a joint declaration.

Sources familiar with the matter disclosed that there are talks about incorporating a clause calling for the resolution of issues concerning South Korean abductees, detainees, and prisoners of war (POWs) held in North Korea.

“In the joint statements from the seventh and eighth trilateral summits in 2018 and 2019, respectively, the resolution of the issue of Japanese abductees was included,” stated a government source anonymously, highlighting the likelihood of including the issue of Japanese abductees alongside South Korean nationals.

The joint declaration during the last trilateral summit in December 2019 in Chengdu, China, expressed hope for Japan and North Korea to engage in dialogue on the abduction issue.

During the 2018 trilateral summit in Tokyo, the joint declaration stressed the desire of South Korea and China for the swift resolution of the abduction issue between North Korea and Japan through dialogue.

Presently, six South Koreans, including three missionaries – Kim Jung-wook, Choi Chun-gil, and Kim Kook-kie – are detained in North Korea, with their whereabouts and fates unknown. Additionally, 516 South Koreans remain unaccounted for among an estimated 3,835 individuals kidnapped by North Korea after the Korean War. Moreover, approximately 60,000 POWs are believed to still be held in North Korea after being detained during the conflict.

As diplomatic efforts intensify, South Korea aims to address the plight of its citizens detained in North Korea through collaborative dialogue with regional partners.