In talks last week, Japan called on North Korea to provide “convincing evidence” to back the results of its investigations into Japanese nationals abducted decades ago, a government source said.
Tokyo put Pyongyang on notice that Japan is wary of North Korea presenting false information, as it did in past investigations of 12 Japanese nationals officially recognized as abductees.
North Korea has claimed that eight of them have died and the remaining four never entered the country. “Proof” provided to Japan included what North Korean claimed were the cremated remains of Megumi Yokota, a symbolic figure among the abduction victims. DNA tests conducted in Japan determined the ashes were not those of Yokota.
“Of course, we are expecting all of them to be alive and all of them to return alive,” the government source said. “Investigations like those done in the past are unacceptable.”
After the delegation returned last week from Pyongyang following two days of talks, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that the North Korean side pledged to deepen its probe “regardless of past investigations’ results.”
On Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he expects North Korea to present by year-end its initial report on the new round of investigations into the abduction victims.
In May, in return for Japan easing its sanctions on North Korea, Pyongyang agreed to conduct a comprehensive survey of all Japanese in the country, including those it abducted in the 1970s and 1980s to instruct North Korean spies to speak Japanese and teach them about Japanese culture. In July, North Korea announced the launch of a special investigation committee.
Japan officially lists 17 nationals as abducted during the period but suspects North Korea’s involvement in hundreds of other disappearances.
Five of the 17 returned home in 2002 after a historic visit to Pyongyang by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The abduction issue remains a major impediment to normalizing ties between the two countries, which have yet to establish diplomatic relations.