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Iijima briefing to wait until his return

Kyodo

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday the administration will be briefed by Isao Iijima, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s adviser currently visiting North Korea, after he returns to Japan later this week.

Iijima, who went to Pyongyang on Tuesday, will return home as early as Saturday after meeting with senior North Korean officials, including the No. 2 man, Kim Yong Nam.

There has been much speculation about what Iijima has been discussing.

“The abductions are the most important issue for the administration. Prime Minister Abe has a strong desire to resolve the issue, feeling it is his responsibility,” Suga told a news conference.

Details of the meeting between Iijima and Kim, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, North Korea’s legislature, were not known from a brief report by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency released Thursday. But they are believed to have discussed steps to improve bilateral relations, including how to resolve the abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.

Observers are paying attention to what Kim may have said about the abduction issue, a key obstacle to normalizing ties between the two countries.

Song Il Ho, North Korea’s ambassador for talks to normalize relations with Japan, attended the meeting at the Mansudae Assembly Hall, the Tokyo-based Radiopress reported, quoting North Korean media reports.

Last October, Kim said the abduction issue “has already been settled” and urged Japan to take action to address the suffering of the Korean people from Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

“It is vital for Japan to settle its past if it wishes to improve relations with (North) Korea,” he said in an interview in Pyongyang. “Before talking about the abduction issue, Japan must reflect on criminal acts it committed against Korean people.”

The unannounced trip by Iijima, which came amid North Korea’s increasing isolation in the international community over its nuclear and missile threats, caused resentment in the United States and South Korea.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida tried to ease the tension. “Cooperation between Japan, the United States and South Korea is very important. We must try to communicate with each other sufficiently,” Kishida told reporters.

The ruling coalition partner of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party also expressed hope that Iijima’s trip won’t disturb the relationship the three countries share.

“It is important (Japan) does not cause any concern to both the United States and South Korea,” Yoshihisa Inoue, secretary general of New Komeito, said.