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The families of Japanese abducted by North Korea decades ago increased pressure on the government to achieve a breakthrough Wednesday as leader Kim Jong Il’s third son was effectively put on track to succeed his father.

“The current North Korean move offers a chance to get the abductees back,” said Kayoko Arimoto, whose daughter, Keiko, was kidnapped in 1983 at age 23.

Pyongyang says she died in an accident.

“If we miss this opportunity, the situation may go on forever,” Arimoto, 84, said. “I hope the government will rack its brain and encourage North Korea” to act.

Shigeo Iizuka, the 72-year-old brother of abductee Yaeko Taguchi and head of an association of abductees’ families, said time is of the essence even though it may take a while for Kim Jong Un to assume power.

Toru Hasuike, 55, the older brother of Kaoru Hasuike, who was abducted with his girlfriend in 1978 and returned to Japan in 2002, called for action.

“The government should move proactively after promptly analyzing what impact (the dynastic move) will have on diplomacy, including the abduction issue,” he said. “Taking a wait-and-see stance in the belief that North Korea will eventually move toward reform and openness won’t solve anything.”

Meanwhile, Kazuhiro Araki, head of a private organization investigating the abduction issue, said he assumes Jong Un won’t be able to exert much leadership even if he eventually succeeds his father.

“Information about the abductees may emerge from confusion in North Korea, not from negotiations between states,” he said. “Amid the confusion, there could be a case in which the abductees themselves could escape from the country.”

The abduction issue has been the biggest impediment to normalizing relations between Japan and North Korea.

North Korea in September 2002 admitted for the first time that its agents abducted 13 Japanese nationals and offered an official apology. Five of the victims have since returned to Japan, but Pyongyang says the rest are dead.

Tokyo counts a total of 17 Japanese men and women as having been abducted.

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