Pyongyang abduction post eyed

Kyodo

Japan could station diplomats and police officials in North Korea following Pyongyang’s promise last week to reinvestigate the whereabouts of Japanese nationals it abducted, sources in the Abe administration said.

As the two countries have no diplomatic relations and since the North reneged on a similar pledge in the past, the officials would be dispatched to Pyongyang to monitor and verify the reinvestigation. They would also be expected to extend assistance to any surviving abductees.

Initially, they would be stationed in North Korea for a short period of time, but Tokyo is considering making them resident officials and establishing a permanent office in Pyongyang.

The two countries, which held their latest round of intergovernmental talks through Wednesday in Stockholm, announced Thursday that the North will conduct a new, thorough investigation into the fate of 12 missing Japanese listed by Japan as among 17 of its citizens abducted in the 1970s and 1980s. The North will also probe claims that its agents snatched other Japanese who are listed as missing.

North Korea admitted in 2002 to having abducted 13 Japanese, including five who have since returned home.

In about three weeks, Pyongyang is expected to launch a special committee to conduct the investigation, to locate and recover the remains of Japanese who died in what is now North Korea around the end of World War II, and to account for Japanese women who accompanied their Korean spouses to the North between 1959 and 1984.

Tokyo hopes to start arranging, possibly in June, the dispatch of officials to Pyongyang, the sources said. In the absence of formal diplomatic ties, the two countries at present contact each other via their embassies in Beijing.

The two sides have already begun discussing the posting of Japanese officials in Pyongyang and North Korea has expressed an intention to accept them, the government sources said.

“Initially, the Foreign Ministry and National Police Agency will send officials,” one source said.

North Korea promised in 2008 to reinvestigate the abduction cases, but then declared the issue resolved. The abductions have prevented the two countries from normalizing ties.