The Abe government has presented North Korea a list of around 470 Japanese nationals it believes could have been abducted by the communist country, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga revealed Sunday.
“The list of abductees, including possible cases, has been handed to North Korea through a diplomatic channel,” Suga said on a TV program, referring to a recent vow by Pyongyang to reinvestigate the fate of Japanese citizens it snatched back in the 1970s and 1980s.
Tokyo says North Korea abducted 17 of Japanese nationals. In addition, there are a number of other Japanese whose disappearances may be linked to the North.
When Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang in September 2002, North Korea owned up to abducting 13 Japanese nationals. Five of them were later repatriated.
The North has said the remaining eight, including Megumi Yokota, who was abducted at age 13 in 1977, had already died, and that four others had never entered the isolated country. At recent bilateral talks in Stockholm, however, North Korean officials agreed to open a fresh investigation into the matter.
Suga said the government of Prime Minster Shinzo Abe will dispatch officials to North Korea after it produces a reinvestigation report that can be scrutinized by Tokyo. Those officials are expected to be drawn from the Foreign Ministry and the National Police Agency, among other entities.
By stationing Japanese officials in Pyongyang, the Abe government hopes to ensure thorough verification of Pyongyang’s reinvestigation efforts, according to Suga.
Suga also indicated that intergovernmental talks will continue with Pyongyang on the abduction issue, even if the North carries out new nuclear tests or ballistic missile launches.
Whether or not Abe will visit Pyongyang following its release of the reinvestigation report will depend on the content, Suga said.