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Japan to demand update on fate of 10 abductees

Japan will demand that North Korea issue an interim report next month regarding the fate of eight Japanese abductees Pyongyang says are dead and two others it says never entered the country, government sources said Thursday.

The government plans to propose a bilateral working-level meeting in August via a diplomatic channel in Beijing, seeking to receive the report from North Korea on that occasion, they said.

During a May meeting in Pyongyang between North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Kim promised to reinvestigate the cases in question.

Tokyo has decided to press the North for a detailed explanation on the reinvestigation as it has not received any new information from Pyongyang two months after the pledge, the sources said.

Japan envisages the working-level session taking place in Pyongyang. During the meeting, it plans to ask North Korea to disclose information gathered by the North Korean side so far and demand clarification as to when the reinvestigation will finish, they said.

Japanese officials also hope to visit a facility in Chongjin where abductees are believed to have been detained, they said.

A senior Foreign Ministry official has said there would be no need to expedite normalization talks with North Korea unless the North presents a satisfactory report.

Japan has envisioned resuming normalization talks as early as August.

Japan expects Song Il Ho, a deputy bureau chief in the North Korean Foreign Ministry, to take part in the working-level meeting, along with Akitaka Saiki, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.

Japan has demanded that North Korea resolve this issue, as well as nuclear and missile issues, as part of bilateral talks aimed at normalizing ties.

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