Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday that North Korea has asked Japanese officials to visit Pyongyang to receive the latest information on its probe into the fate of Japanese abductees.
Abe was revealing the results of a meeting Monday in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang after he was briefed by Junichi Ihara, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.
Ihara met for 4½ hours with a North Korean delegation led by Song Il Ho, North Korea’s ambassador for negotiations to normalize relations with Japan.
Song “asked director Ihara to come to Pyongyang to meet members of the special investigation committee to get updated on the details of the probe,” Abe told reporters at the prime minister’s office.
The North Korean side told Ihara that Pyongyang is conducting a scientific and objective investigation but is unable to report concrete results at this time because the probe is still in the initial stages, according to Abe.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida later expressed disappointment over what he described as an unsatisfactory explanation of the status of the probe, which Pyongyang launched nearly three months ago. After the launch, Japan eased some sanctions.
“The Japanese government hopes (North Korea) will conduct a comprehensive and full-scale investigation and report the results of the investigation as soon as possible,” he said.
North Korea had said it would release its first report on the investigation around “late summer or early fall.”
Japan officially recognizes 17 Japanese as being abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and ’80s. Of them, five returned to Japan in 2002 following a landmark visit by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Pyongyang that year. North Korea claims the remaining 12 either died or never entered the country.
According to the latest estimate of the National Police Agency, as many as 883 Japanese may have been abducted by North Korea.
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