After receiving word in 2014 that two Japanese men who had disappeared in the late 1970s were alive and living in North Korea, the Japanese government decided not to release the information due to fears that the public would react negatively, sources with knowledge of the matter said Thursday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is said to have signed off on a decision by a senior official not to disclose that Minoru Tanaka, who the government officially lists as abducted by North Korean agents, and Tatsumitsu Kaneda, who is suspected of having also been taken, were found to have been living in Pyongyang.

North Korea is said to have told Japan that both men were married and had fathered children since arriving in the country, and that they had no intention of returning.