North Korea quietly sounded out the new Japanese government earlier in December about restarting bilateral discussions early next year. According to a December 31st report carried by Kyodo News, North Korea made the unofficial approach shortly after the Japanese general election on December 16th that saw the Liberal Democratic Party returned to power.
On December 1st, Japan suspended what had been a relatively vibrant dialogue with North Korea spanning the second half of 2012 following Pyongyang’s announcement that it would launch a long-range rocket during the same month.
Noting the current state of affairs, one Japanese government official cited in the piece said, “There is the likelihood that North Korea will do something provocative again, such as a new missile or nuclear test, so the real motivation (behind sounding out the Japanese government for talks) is unclear.”
According to the piece, North Korea seems to be showing a degree of flexibility on the sticky abductees issue in order to undermine the new government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's avowed hardline approach to North Korea policy.
The last bilateral talks before North Korea’s latest long-range rocket launch were on November 15th and 16th in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator.
On December 28th, Prime Minister Abe met the families of abducted Japanese civilians, telling them, “I will definitely solve the abductees problem. This is not just talk, I will work daily to try and bring about results.”