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Japanese economic aid to North Korea must be based on the settlement of the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents, a Japanese official said Sunday.

“I think we cannot promise economic cooperation unless the issue of the abductions is settled,” said Taku Yamasaki, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. “It is the sentiment of the Japanese people. There is no diplomacy ignoring them.”

Yamasaki made the remarks, referring to the abductions of the 1970s and 1980s, during two morning television programs.

Yamasaki said he is hopeful bilateral ties can be normalized quickly, noting North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is on the front lines of negotiations.

“It will have a special meaning if we settle the issue (of normalization) soon. We should not (negotiate) inefficiently, taking a long time,” he said.

However, Yamasaki suggested Japan could provide humanitarian aid to North Korea even during normalization negotiations if international organizations request that Tokyo do so.

Pyongyang media mum

North Korean media did not report the Saturday arrival of a Japanese fact-finding mission tasked with investigating the abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, as of noon Sunday.

According to Radiopress, which is monitoring the (North) Korean Central News Agency and official TV broadcasts for Japan and South Korea, there was no coverage of the Japanese government mission that arrived in Pyongyang via Beijing.

The mission members plan to check the accuracy of North Korea’s claim that eight of the Japanese it abducted are dead and five are alive. They are expected to leave the country Tuesday.

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