• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, during a Group of Eight dinner Wednesday, brought up the issue of missing Japanese whom Tokyo believes were kidnapped by North Korea, a Japanese official said.

Referring to Japan-North Korea relations, Koizumi said, “There is an abduction issue involving Japanese nationals,” according to the official.

Tokyo alleges that at least 11 Japanese were abducted to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. Pyongyang has denied the allegations.

Japan has been calling for international cooperation to help locate the missing Japanese.

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi has asked the United States to take up the issue when U.S. officials meet with North Korea later this month.

Kawaguchi made the request June 12 during a meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell in the lead up to a gathering of G8 foreign ministers in Whistler, British Columbia. Powell simply nodded in response, according to Japanese officials.

During a meeting in March in Seoul, Koizumi and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung reportedly confirmed the need for dialogue to help settle the issue.

Shortly after Koizumi met with Kim, North Korea announced it would resume talks with the Japanese Red Cross Society on the fate of the missing Japanese.

In December, North Korea announced it had ended a probe into what it calls the “missing persons” case.

The issue is a major sticking point in Japan-North Korea normalization talks.

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