Group wants Koizumi to bring abductees home within a month

Lawmakers supporting relatives of the Japanese kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s agreed Friday to call on Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to arrange the return of the surviving abductees to Japan within a month.

The nonpartisan group of lawmakers adopted a resolution on the matter at a plenary meeting, held a day after the families of 11 abductees conveyed to government officials their demands that the survivors and their families be brought back to Japan.

In the resolution addressed to Koizumi, the lawmakers said they do not believe Japan should even conduct negotiations aimed at establishing diplomatic ties until all of the facts surrounding the abductions come to light.

The resolution also demands that the government seek more information from North Korea on all the abducted Japanese on the premise that they are alive.

During the lawmakers’ meeting, the head of a recent government mission to North Korea said he believes Pyongyang’s response to their inquiries had been inadequate.

“Compared with what we had anticipated, the response is still inadequate,” Akitaka Saiki, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, said at a general assembly of a lawmakers’ group supporting relatives of the abductees.

At the meeting, Saiki also referred to the peculiar political and social situation North Korea.

The diplomat also told the group that the government may consider creating a working group within the framework of negotiations aimed at normalizing relations to deal with the abduction issue.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi agreed with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during their landmark Sept. 17 summit in Pyongyang to resume normalization talks in October after a two-year hiatus.

Japan sent the fact-finding team to North Korea from Sept. 28 to Tuesday to verify Pyongyang’s claims that eight of the 13 Japanese nationals North Korea admitted abducting in the 1970s and 1980s are dead and five are alive.

However, the findings — particularly Pyongyang’s claims concerning those who died in accidents and due to illnesses in North Korea — did not satisfy the demands of the relatives of the abductees or the government.

The mission confirmed the identities of the five surviving abductees but could not confirm the deaths because North Korea claimed the remains of most of the dead had been washed away in floods and landslides.

The same day, the lawmakers’ group chose former farm minister Shoichi Nakagawa, a House of Representatives legislator of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, as the new chairman of the group to replace Shigeru Ishiba.

Ishiba, also an LDP Lower House member, was appointed director general of the Defense Agency in Monday’s shuffle of Koizumi’s Cabinet.

“North Korea’s barbarous acts came to light due to the efforts by the families (of the abducted),” Ishiba said at the general assembly. “As a member of the Cabinet, I want to give my utmost so that the government can share the feelings of the families.”