Japan will continue to take a hard stance against North Korea over the abduction issue until every single case involving a Japanese citizen is resolved, the Cabinet minister handling the matter said Monday.
Keiji Furuya said North Korea must conduct full investigations not into only the 17 kidnapped people that the Japanese government officially recognizes as abductees, but also another 860 who are suspected of being kidnapped and taken to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.
“The ball is now in North Korea’s court. . . . We are saying that there could be as many as 860 abductees. The government’s policy is to retrieve every single abductee,” Furuya told reporters in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.
The Abe administration is demanding that Pyongyang secure the safety and the immediate return of all abductees, to obtain full accounts of the kidnappings, and to turn over the perpetrators, he said.
“There is absolutely no way that Japanese people will be satisfied with half-way results,” Furuya said. “North Korea must conduct full-fledged investigations.”
North Korea may deliver its first report on its investigation into the fate of Japanese nationals abducted by Pyongyang’s agents as early as this month.
Furuya said the government has studied many different possible scenarios regarding the content of Pyongyang’s first report and has prepared responses for each case.
Japan officially lists 17 nationals as abductees but suspects North Korea’s involvement in many more disappearances. The number of missing Japanese who may have been abducted by North Korea ranges from about 470 as listed by the Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea, a Tokyo-based citizens’ group, to 860, as estimated by the National Police Agency.
Among the official 17, five were returned to Japan in 2002, following Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s landmark trip to Pyongyang. North Korea claims that the remaining 12 have either died or never entered the country.
On July 4, Japan lifted some of its unilateral economic sanctions on North Korea after Pyongyang set up a panel to investigate the whereabouts of the Japanese nationals. The probe is also supposed to cover other missing Japanese suspected of having been abducted.