Japan to press Pyongyang for abduction probe

Kyodo News

, we will not even pay 1 yen. We deliver this as our message,” Aso said in a speech in Fukuoka Prefecture. He added that Japan is ready to maintain economic sanctions on Pyongyang, including the ban on port calls by the North Korean ferry Mangyongbong-92.

The bilateral meeting in Hanoi is one of the five working groups that participants of the six-party talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear programs agreed to set up last month.

Among the agreements reached in the multilateral talks in Beijing was that North Korea would receive economic, energy and humanitarian aid equivalent to up to 1 million tons of fuel oil from other parties during the initial action phase and the next phase of disabling all existing nuclear facilities.

Despite the six-way deal, Japan has said it will not directly participate in providing fuel oil until the abduction matter is closed. North Korea says the issue has already been resolved.

At the outset of the Hanoi talks, Japan is expected to urge North Korea to reconfirm the validity of the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration in an effort to have it admit that the abduction issue remains unresolved, the sources said.

The declaration, signed in September 2002 in Pyongyang by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, does not specifically mention the abduction issue.

However, the document refers to it as “outstanding issues of concern related to the lives and security of Japanese nationals” and says the two sides will “tackle outstanding problems” between them in the course of normalizing relations.

Japan has insisted that it will not normalize ties unless the abduction issue is resolved. “The biggest aim of the negotiations is to realize the prompt repatriation of abduction victims,” said Koichi Haraguchi, ambassador in charge of talks on normalizing ties with North Korea and who will represent Japan in the bilateral talks.