The ruling Liberal Democratic Party demanded Thursday that the government tighten sanctions on North Korea to prod it to provide information as soon as possible about Japanese nationals abducted by the North decades ago.
In a list of recommendations presented to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the LDP Headquarters for North Korean Abductions called for reinstating sanctions the government lifted last July.
The LDP group also requested the government impose new sanctions, such as banning remittances to North Korea, except those up to ¥100,000 ($809) sent for humanitarian purposes, among other punitive measures.
The move came ahead of the first anniversary on July 4 of the launch by North Korea of a “reinvestigation” into 12 Japanese nationals officially recognized by Tokyo as abduction victims and still missing, in return for the lifting of some of Japan’s unilateral sanctions on Pyongyang.
Japan regards the date as the deadline for the reinvestigation, but there has been no sign that North Korea would report its findings by then.
In a meeting with Keiji Furuya, chairman of the headquarters, part of which was open to the media, Abe said, “Taking into account the recommendations, (the government) would like to make efforts to achieve the return and rescue of all the abduction victims.”
The recommendations also include asking the United States to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, urging local governments in Japan to stop extending subsidies to schools for pro-Pyongyang Korean students and expanding a list of senior members of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan who will be banned from re-entering the country.
The pro-Pyongyang group, called Chongryon, effectively functions as a North Korean embassy in Japan in the absence of diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang. The abduction issue has prevented the two countries from normalizing diplomatic ties.
While carefully watching North Korea’s moves, the government is likely to decide possibly in early July as to whether Tokyo will tighten sanctions on Pyongyang, according to Japanese officials.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government “is strongly demanding that North Korea report its findings promptly and honestly, and ensure the return of all abduction victims.”
“The government is making its best efforts based on the principles of ‘dialogue and pressure’ and ‘action by action,'” Suga said at a news conference.
In line with a deal struck during talks in May last year between the two governments in Stockholm, North Korea launched a reinvestigation into the 12 abduction victims, as well as a comprehensive probe into all Japanese nationals residing in North Korea.
Tokyo attaches the highest priority to the reinvestigation into the fates of the abduction victims, or those abducted in the 1970s and 1980s presumably to train spies in Japanese language and culture.
Japan officially lists 17 nationals as abduction victims but suspects North Korea’s involvement in many more disappearances. While five of the 17 were repatriated in 2002, Pyongyang has maintained that eight have died and four others never entered the country.
North Korea conducted investigations in 2002 and 2004 into its abductions of Japanese nationals, but Japan rejected the results, branding them as unconvincing.