North Korea open to reinvestigating abduction cases with Japan: sources

Kyodo

Pyongyang has expressed openness to the idea of setting up a joint investigatory commission proposed by Tokyo to determine the actual fate of Japanese abductees whom the North claims have died, government sources revealed.

Japan and North Korea have begun preparations to hold the next round of bilateral discussions between senior officials possibly by the end of this month, the sources said Wednesday. Tokyo hopes to swiftly reach agreement with Pyongyang on conducting a new investigation into North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals in the late 1970s and early ’80s, but given the difficulty in discerning the highly secretive North’s true intentions, it remains unclear whether such a probe will be realized, they said.

At a meeting last week in Mongolia between Foreign Ministry officials from Tokyo and Pyongyang, the North reportedly voiced willingness to hold the next round of talks soon. Tokyo wants to arrange them sometime between late November and before the Dec. 16 election, with Beijing the most likely venue for the meeting, the sources said.

From late October through this month, a government official was secretly in contact with Pyongyang and proposed launching the joint investigatory panel promptly, presenting it as an idea embraced by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s office, the sources said. Noda was fully briefed on the content of these off-the-record discussions.

In response, North Korea said it intends to disclose its plan to conduct a probe into the abduction issue, according to the sources.