Relatives of Japanese believed abducted by North Korea renewed their demand Friday for the government to slap economic sanctions on Pyongyang.

The demand for the hardline stance came after officials briefed the relatives on a two-day working-level meeting between the two countries in Beijing that ended Thursday with no new news coming from the North regarding the fate of 10 Japanese who were believed abducted.

The relatives, who in the past criticized the government for being too weak toward North Korea, took a low-key approach this time and even praised the Japanese diplomats for grilling their North Korean counterparts during the talks.

The group and their supporters drew strong criticism from the public after they lashed out at Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for what they called a weak negotiating stance at his Pyongyang summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on May 22, when he secured the release of family members of the five known surviving, and repatriated, abductees.

“It is our understanding that (Japanese officials) acted resolutely,” Shigeru Yokota, head of the relatives’ group, told reporters Friday.

His daughter, Megumi, was abducted by North Korean agents in 1977 at age 13 and is one of the 10 Tokyo seeks word on. Pyongyang, during Koizumi’s first summit in the North in 2002, when he secured the release of the five abductees, claimed she had died in the reclusive state.

“But we’d like (the government) to adopt a firmer attitude” toward the North, Yokota said, meanwhile urging the public not to lose interest in the abduction issue.

The relatives said the North Korean side provided no meaningful information on the fate of the 10 Japanese and called Pyongyang’s attitude “insincere.”

Earlier Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told reporters that whether Pyongyang accepts Tokyo’s demand for a second round of talks in September is “very important” for Japan to decide whether to exercise the economic sanction option.

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