A Japanese official stated Sunday that progress on the issue of the Japanese nationals allegedly abducted by North Korean agents is necessary to the success of this week’s North Korea-Japan summit.

The meeting in Pyongyang between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is scheduled for Tuesday.

Ruling Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Taku Yamasaki made the remarks on a TV program aired in the morning. He was referring to the allegation that at least 11 Japanese nationals were abducted to North Korea from 1977 to 1983.

Makoto Koga, former LDP secretary general, said on the same program the summit can only be called a success if there is confirmation of the precise whereabouts of the 11 people and clear procedures for their return to Japan.

Yukio Okamoto, a senior official of the Cabinet Secretariat, said on a separate TV program that normalization talks between Japan and North Korea should not be resumed without similar information and assurances.

But Yamasaki and Okamoto said it would be unrealistic for Koizumi to try to take the 11 home with him after the summit. Calls have been made from within the ruling coalition for the immediate return of the 11.

Okamoto, a former veteran diplomat, stressed: “It is the North Korean side that is in a hurry (to normalize Japan-North Korea relations).” Japan does not have to hurry.”

He also suggested that other issues, including the suspension of missile tests by North Korea, would be a precondition for a resumption of the normalization talks.

“Japan should take whatever it can over issues such as the abductions and Japanese security,” Okamoto said.

The focus of the landmark talks between Koizumi and Kim is on whether they can agree to resume the official normalization negotiations that were suspended in October 2000. The negotiations foundered on both countries’ long-standing disputes. Pyongyang has demanded an apology and compensation for Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, while Tokyo has insisted on information on the missing 11.

The two countries have never had diplomatic ties and the trip will be the first time for a Japanese prime minister to visit North Korea.

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