North Korea appears eager to find out Japan’s “criteria” for resolving Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese nationals in the late 1970s and early 1980s, government sources said Wednesday.

The North is understood to have expressed a desire to know the purported Japanese criteria during unofficial talks with two senior members of the Liberal Democratic Party in Dalian, China, last week, the sources said.

The two LDP members — Taku Yamasaki, former LDP vice president and secretary general, and House of Representatives member Katsuei Hirasawa — got the impression that North Korea is interested in knowing if Japan is willing to put an end to the abduction row if Pyongyang allows the eight family members of five repatriated abductees to go to Japan.

The two traveled to Dalian last Thursday to meet with two senior North Korean officials — Jong Thae Hwa, who is in charge of North Korea-Japan normalization talks, and Song Il Ho, a senior Foreign Ministry official.

The five repatriated abductees returned home in October 2002 but were not allowed to bring their North Korean-born children and the American husband of one of the five with them. In its dealings with Pyongyang, Tokyo has prioritized getting the North to allow the family members to come to Japan.

While it is widely believed that North Korea wants to resolve the issue to obtain economic aid from Tokyo, Japan is strongly demanding that Pyongyang provide details about 10 other Japanese abductees.

Support group irked

Staff report

A nonpartisan group of lawmakers working on behalf of Japanese abducted to North Korea and their relatives issued a statement Wednesday condemning a recent unofficial trip made by two Liberal Democratic Party members to China to meet officials from Pyongyang.

“The visit is an unforgivable act that caused distrust from three groups (working on behalf of the abductees),” Takeo Hiranuma, an LDP member who heads the group, said in reference to the secretive trip made by former lawmaker and ex-LDP Vice President Taku Yamasaki and Lower House member Katsuei Hirasawa.

The other two groups consist of abductees’ relatives and activists also working on behalf of the abductees and their next of kin.

Contacting North Korea through unofficial channels leads to confusion and distrust, the statement says, adding that Hirasawa “betrayed the group and those involved in order to win fame.”

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