SAITAMA – A man who was held by North Korea for more than 20 years before being repatriated in 2002 renewed a call for other Japanese abductees to be returned as soon as possible as Pyongyang conducts its second probe into their whereabouts.
“We have to make (the return) of the remaining people happen as early as possible,” Kaoru Hasuike, 56, said in a speech in the city of Saitama.
If the negotiations between the two countries on the abduction issue end without progress, he said Saturday, “I wonder how large that psychological damage would be” for those left behind.
In the near future, North Korea is expected to issue its first report on the new investigation.
Hasuike is one of several Japanese who were abducted by Pyongyang in the 1970s and 1980s. He was whisked away by North Korean spies in 1978, along with a woman who would later become his wife and who was also allowed to return to Japan in 2002.
Hasuike said North Korean authorities seem to be asking the Japanese residing in the country whether they want to return to Japan.
He said that because it will be difficult for the abductees to express their wishes freely if they have children there, the Japanese side must confirm their intentions while they are in North Korea.
“I want Japan to convince other countries like the United States that place greater emphasis on nuclear issues than abductions that Japan is giving priority to the abductions,” Hasuike said. “I really hope so as one of the victims.”
Hasuike is one of five abductees who returned to Japan in 2002 after a landmark visit to Pyongyang by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
North Korea launched a special committee in July to investigate the fates of other Japanese who were abducted. In response, Japan has lifted some of its unilateral sanctions on North Korea.
Attention is focused on whether the forthcoming report will mention any of the 12 Japanese on Tokyo’s official list of 17 abductees still unaccounted for, as well as others considered highly likely to have been taken by North Korea.
The abduction issue has prevented the two countries from normalizing diplomatic relations.
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