Japan to send officials to North Korea for update on abductee investigation

Japan eased some sanctions on North Korea in July

Tokyo: Japan is sending a team to North Korea next week for an update on the investigation into the fate of citizens kidnapped decades ago, despite the objections of some of their family members, its top government spokesman said on Wednesday.

Japan eased some sanctions on North Korea in July in return for the North reopening its probe into the status of the abduction victims and had expected an initial report by early autumn, but Pyongyang said last month there were no details to report and invited Japanese officials to visit for an update.

Pyongyang admitted in 2002 to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens, with five abductees and their families later returned to Japan. The abduction issue has soured relations between the two countries.

The meetings in Pyongyang on Oct 28-29 will take place even in the face of objections by some of the abductees' families, who remain sceptical about the North's sincerity and fear a repeat of a 2004 visit by Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in which the North said eight remaining abductees were dead but Japan refused to accept it.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga reiterated to a news conference that the delegation will tell the North it is Japan's top priority to solve the issue, and will hear about the status of the investigation.

He said the government and the abductee families share the same goal of making it possible for them to meet their loved ones as soon as possible.

"The government has considered many things and believe that it's important to restate Japan's views directly to people who have authority on the issue, since it's often hard with North Korea to know who does hold power. So there's meaning in going," he said.

"We in the government want above all to solve this issue, in line with our stance (towards North Korea) of both pressure and dialogue."

( Source : reuters )
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