Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj on Wednesday, in an unscheduled meeting that suggests Japan has been asking for help from Mongolia to address the past abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea.
Mongolia has diplomatic ties with North Korea, while the abductions by the country's agents in the 1970s and 1980s have prevented Japan and the North from normalizing bilateral relations.
"We discussed various issues," Abe told reporters after having lunch with Elbegdorj at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, declining to comment in detail.
It is thought he may have asked for Mongolia's support as Japan has recently resumed intergovernmental talks with North Korea that are also aimed at addressing Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development programs.
Abe expressed his appreciation to Elbegdorj for Mongolia's cooperation in enabling a meeting in Ulan Bator in March between the parents of one of abductees, Megumi Yokota, and her daughter who lives in North Korea, a Japanese government source said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the two leaders "exchanged views on regional situations" during the 75-minute talks.
As for why the meeting had not been included in the day's official schedule of the prime minister, the top government spokesman said Elbegdorj wanted a meeting in a quiet environment with only a few people present.
The summit talks followed a similar event in September, when the premier invited the president to his private residence, leading to the secret meeting between Yokota's parents and their granddaughter.