North may face sanctions over abduction issue: Abe

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Japan may impose sanctions on North Korea if it continues to put off dealing with the abductee issue, Shinzo Abe, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, warned Tuesday.

“If they go on failing to sincerely deal with this problem, the Diet will have to urge the government to put more pressure” on North Korea, Abe said during a lecture in Tokyo.

“The Diet has already passed the necessary legislation, and (we) may need to make the most of the laws,” Abe, known as a hardliner on North Korean relations, said.

One of the laws he referred to can be used to bar North Korean ships from Japanese ports and another could halt cash remittances to the reclusive state.

Abe noted it will be “very difficult” for the next round of six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear threat to be held by the end of this month, because Pyongyang has been dragging its heels. He also said there is a danger that North Korea-Japan dialogue may take a back seat to the six-party talks involving the United States, North and South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

Japan has already provided half of the 250,000 tons in food aid it has promised Pyongyang, even though the two countries have not resolved the abduction issue, he said.

“We cannot possibly think of using our taxpayers’ money to give the other half if they pointlessly put off” dealing with the abductions, Abe said.

The issue involves 10 missing Japanese, eight of whom Pyongyang admitted abducting but claims have since died and two it says never entered the North.

Abe said “it is fully possible” the 10 are still alive.

He charged that North Korean authorities know the fate of the 10, saying, “If (North Korea) makes a decision, their whereabouts will be found out immediately.”

On the upcoming reshuffle of the LDP executive roster and the Cabinet, Abe said he believes Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has approved of his intention to step down from his post to take responsibility for the party’s setback in the July House of Councilors election.

Asked if he intends to join Koizumi’s Cabinet, Abe said he has received no such offer from the prime minister.