Pyongyang told Tokyo that it is still in “an early stage” of its second investigation into missing Japanese and plans to finish the probe in about a year, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga revealed Friday.
The North had earlier promised to submit the first report from the special investigation committee on missing Japanese, including those who were allegedly abducted by North Korean spies, in “late summer or early fall.”
But Pyongyang told Tokyo on Thursday that it currently can only report the results of the investigation’s “early stage,” Suga said during his regularly scheduled news conference.
The revelation immediately raised speculation that the North is resorting to its usual diplomatic tactic of prolonging negotiations in a bid to win as many concessions as possible.
Japanese officials had pinned much hope on the first report, believing Pyongyang might return at least some of the abductees.
The two countries have reportedly been trying for weeks to set a date for delivering the report.
Later Friday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged Pyongyang to “sincerely conduct the investigation and honestly answer” all questions about the alleged abductions.
“I’m convinced I’m the one who knows the most about how the North acts” in the game of diplomacy, Abe said in a speech at a Tokyo hotel. “We will maintain our principle of (applying) pressure and (holding) dialogue” at the same time.
During his news conference, Suga said Japan will demand that the North provide the details surrounding the ongoing investigation.
“From the beginning we knew negotiations (with the North) wouldn’t be easy,” Suga said. The Japanese “government believes North Korean authorities have (all of the information on the) abductees in their hands. We’d like the North to respond in a sincere manner.”
Japanese officials and experts believe that all of the abductees, some of who were reportedly used as language teachers for North Korean spies, have been kept under strict control.
Tokyo claims at least 17 Japanese nationals were abducted in the 1970s and ’80s, of whom only five have been allowed to return to Japan.
In addition, Japanese police have a list of 883 missing people who they say could have been abducted by the North.
The abduction issue has long been a major obstacle for the two countries to normalize relations.
Pyongyang agreed in May to hold a new probe and set up the special investigation committee in July. Japan responded by easing some sanctions.
“The negotiations have just begun,” a senor government official said.