Hardline sanctions against North Korea could have a reverse effect on settling the abduction issue with the hermit state, the brother of a repatriated abductee warned Thursday in Tokyo.

Toru Hasuike, whose brother, Kaoru, was returned to Japan in October 2002 after being held for 24 years by the North, told a news conference that the government should try a more flexible approach.

“I understand that some sanctions are necessary,” he said, but a prolonged stalemate doesn’t help Japanese abductees in North Korea.

More than a dozen Japanese were kidnapped by North Korean agents beginning in the 1970s. Hasuike’s brother was one of five who were returned following a meeting September 2002 between Kim Jong Il and then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Relatives of abductees have long called on the government to take a tougher diplomatic stance against the North. Politicians are under strong pressure because the kin have won great sympathy from the public.

Hasuike’s change in stance is a surprise.

He told reporters at the Japan National Press Center that merely piling on more sanctions is “lacking vision or a (diplomatic) process.”

Following Pyongyang’s second nuclear test in May, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution imposing sanctions and urging member states to inspect North Korean ships at sea to prevent weapons shipments. Japan enhanced its own sanctions Wednesday, including a complete ban on exports to North Korea.

Pyongyang reacted by vowing to accelerate its nuclear weapons program.

“Seeking sanctions after sanctions is a sign that the government’s ability to think has halted,” Hasuike said, pushing instead for a framework with “more communication and negotiation.”

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