BEIJING -- A senior aide to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived Tuesday in North Korea, but neither country gave a reason for the unannounced visit that followed weeks of high tension in the region over the North's nuclear and missile tests.
The sudden trip by Isao Iijima touched off speculation in the Japanese media that Abe was seeking to revive the long-standing issue of North Korea's abduction of Japanese citizens, as well as perhaps to prepare the stage for a visit to Pyongyang by the prime minister.
Japan and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations, and intergovernmental talks between the two sides were suspended after the North launched a long-range rocket in December, followed by a nuclear weapons test in February.
The Japanese government provided no explanation for Iijima's visit. Japan's Kyodo News agency showed video footage of the aide arriving in Pyongyang and being received by someone identified as Kim Chol Ho, vice director of the North Korean Foreign Ministry's Asian Affairs Department.