• Kyodo

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Tokyo has rejected Pyongyang’s proposed initial report on its reinvestigation into its abductions of Japanese nationals, on the grounds that no fresh information is contained on 12 Japanese nationals officially recognized by Japan as having been abducted to North Korea, a source said Saturday.

Pyongyang said the report would include only information on missing persons who are not on Tokyo’s official list, which totals 17 Japanese. Instead, the North’s report will only cover cases of Japanese suspected of having been abducted by North Korea but not officially designated as such, of Japanese left behind in North Korea amid the chaos of the end of World War II, and of Japanese spouses of North Koreans who returned to their native country, the source said.

Pyongyang has told Tokyo it is still investigating the fates of the 12 officially listed as having been abducted in the 1970s and 1980s.

But the Japanese government replied that, as it places the highest value on that group, it will not accept the report unless it includes new information on their fates. The other five designated abductees were repatriated in 2002.

North Korea notified Japan earlier this month of the planned content of its initial report on the investigation.

Junichi Ihara, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry, secretly held talks with North Korean officials on Sept. 13 and 14 in China to discuss the timing of the submission of the initial report and its content, according to the source. This followed similar informal talks held in late August and early September between the two sides.

The submission of North Korea’s first report also will likely be later than the deadline of early fall promised under a bilateral agreement, as Tokyo wants a substantive investigation by Pyongyang, the source said.

Tokyo believes the half-baked proposal by Pyongyang shows it aims to offer information in small increments, each time trying to elicit as many economic benefits as possible from Japan in exchange. During past negotiations, North Korea asked Japan to ease unilateral economic sanctions and sought humanitarian support, such as food, and Pyongyang may have made a similar request during the latest talks, the source said.

The group of 12 official abductees who remain missing includes Megumi Yokota, who was snatched by North Korea at age 13 and has become a symbol of the decades-old issue.

Japan suspects North Korea’s involvement in far more disappearances. The Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea, a Tokyo-based citizens’ group, has listed some 470 missing Japanese and believes 77 of them are highly likely to have been abducted by North Korea.

The National Police Agency meanwhile believes North Korea may have been involved in the disappearance of about 880 Japanese nationals.

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