Saturday marks 20 years since the first-ever summit between Japan and North Korea. It led to the return of five Japanese people who were abducted by the North. But negotiations to bring back more abductees have since stalled.
Then Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro visited Pyongyang in 2002 to meet the North Korean leader.
Kim Jong Il admitted that agents from his country had abducted Japanese nationals and offered an apology.
Iijima Isao accompanied Koizumi as his secretary. He talked with NHK about his recollection of the visit. Iijima said Japanese officials applied some psychological tactics to help ensure success at the summit.
He said they decided to reduce the size of the security detail to fewer than 30, or even 20 people, to indicate that Japan had complete trust in North Korea.
But Iijima said North Korea lost its enthusiasm for negotiations with Japan as time went on. He said that the country became less worried about its security as it pursued a nuclear-weapons program.
It has continued down that road, he notes, and has developed its missile capabilities. North Korea has launched about 30 ballistic missiles this year, the highest number so far.
This week the country's ambassador for normalizing ties with Japan said the abduction issue has already been resolved.
Iijima, however, insists that dialogue is necessary, saying that Japan shouldn't ease its sanctions at all and should engage in negotiations with the North while keeping current sanctions in place.
The Japanese government says North Korean agents abducted at least 17 citizens in the 1970s and 80s.
Of these, the whereabouts of 12 remain unknown.