Abduction issue set to top normalization talks agenda

The abduction issue will be Japan’s “top priority” at upcoming normalization talks with North Korea, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi repeated Tuesday.

Koizumi made the remarks after five surviving abductees — Yasushi Chimura, Fukie Hamamoto, Kaoru Hasuike, Yukiko Okudo and Hitomi Soga — arrived at Haneda airport in the afternoon on a government-chartered plane.

“The government will seek the resolution of the abduction issue as Japan’s top priority for the upcoming negotiations,” Koizumi said in a statement. “The temporary return of the five this time is the beginning of the final solution to the abduction issue.”

The talks are scheduled to resume on Oct. 29 in Kuala Lumpur after a two-year hiatus.

“Through negotiations, we will aim to fully resolve the abduction issue and work persistently in urging North Korea to resolve the abduction issue,” the prime minister said in the statement.

The prime minister stressed that there are still many problems to be solved, such as whether the families of the five Japanese can be brought to Japan and questions into North Korea’s accounts of how the eight other official abductees died.

Koizumi also expressed hope that the returnees will feel at ease and make themselves at home while staying with their families in their hometowns. Their stay in Japan will hopefully ease the agonizing pain they have had to bear, he added.