Seoul hopes Japan’s approach on abductees won’t sap pressure on North


South Korea said it hopes that Japan’s attempt to resolve the abduction issue with North Korea won’t undermine coordinated action to rein in Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.

Seoul “backs Japan’s efforts to resolve the abduction issue (with North Korea) as a humanitarian issue,” but hopes such efforts “will not affect trilateral and international coordination over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs,” Hwang Joon-kook, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, said Wednesday.

Hwang, who spoke to reporters following talks with Japanese officials in Tokyo, was referring to Japan’s policy of gradually lifting its unilateral sanctions on North Korea as a reward for making progress in the new round of investigations into cases of Japanese nationals abducted in the 1970s and 1980s.

During the talks, Hwang said Junichi Ihara, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at the Foreign Ministry, briefed him about negotiations between Tokyo and Pyongyang over the latter’s investigation into abductees and missing Japanese, as well as Japan’s policy toward North Korea going forward.

On July 4, Japan lifted some of its sanctions on North Korea in return for the launch by Pyongyang of what it calls a special investigation committee that will conduct an all-inclusive and comprehensive probe into all Japanese residing in the North.

Hwang said he and Ihara shared “deep concern” about recent launches of ballistic missiles by North Korea.

The two sides agreed that Tokyo and Seoul, together with the international community, will take a “strong response” to such action by Pyongyang, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said, without elaborating.

Ihara and Hwang reiterated a call on North Korea to take “specific action” toward its denuclearization by fully implementing U.N. Security Council resolutions and a six-party joint statement adopted in September 2005, the ministry said in a news release.