• Kyodo News

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Hiroshi Nakai, who until Friday was state minister in charge of dealing with the issue of North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese nationals, said some of the abduction victims are close to being confirmed as alive.

Nakai spoke to reporters just after all the ministers of Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s Cabinet tendered their resignations to pave the way for the formation of a new Cabinet later in the day.

Nakai, who supervised the country’s police forces as chairman of the National Commission on Public Safety, said he conveyed the information to outgoing Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada as a bargaining chip in talks with North Korea that may resume if the six-party talks on the North’s nuclear development program reopen.

Last month, Nakai said the government is looking into suggestions it regards as highly credible that a Japanese woman abducted by North Korea in the 1970s may be alive.

Nakai also said at that time that the government has begun “tracking” assertions made by former North Korean agent Kim Hyon Hui during her visit to Japan in July that the woman, Yaeko Taguchi, and another abductee, Megumi Yokota, are still alive.

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