WASHINGTON – A U.S. official said Wednesday that Washington supports Japan’s efforts to resolve the so-called abduction issue with North Korea, after Tokyo announced it will send a delegation to Pyongyang for talks.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the United States “certainly supports” the central government’s efforts to find out what happened to Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, some of whom may still be alive and living there.
Harf added that the U.S. backs the Japanese government’s efforts to “resolve this issue in a manner that takes into account the interests of the abductees’ family and the security interests of Japan” as well as “its diplomatic partners in the international community.”
The remark was seen as urging Japan to keep in close contact with nations such as the United States and South Korea.
Japan, the United States and South Korea are involved in the six-nation negotiations over North Korean denuclearization. China hosts the talks, with Russia as the sixth member.
Tokyo announced Wednesday that a group of officials, including personnel from the National Police Agency and the Secretariat of the Headquarters for the Abduction Issue, will visit North Korea for talks on Oct. 28 and 29.
It will be the first such talks in Pyongyang since November 2004.
After years of denial, North Korea admitted in 2002 that it had kidnapped Japanese citizens. Japan officially lists 17 nationals as having been abducted in the 1970s and 1980s, but suspects North Korea’s involvement in a number of other disappearances.
Japan lifted some of its unilateral sanctions against North Korea in July after the latter launched what was billed as a new investigation into the fates of missing individuals.
North Korea was due to release an initial report sometime in late summer or early fall but said last month that it was only able to provide initial findings, which would fall short of Tokyo’s expectations.
The abduction issue has been a major obstacle to normalizing diplomatic ties between Japan and North Korea.