Japan under then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rejected a North Korean proposal to return two Japanese men, including a victim of abductions by Pyongyang, in around 2014 and 2015, sources involved in the negotiations have revealed.

Tokyo turned down the proposal by Pyongyang, fearing that the nuclear-armed country could try to end the long-standing issue of abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, the sources said Friday.

It is the first revelation that North Korea had sounded out the government of Abe, who adopted a hard-line stance toward Pyongyang by putting "maximum pressure" on the nation to temporarily return victims of the abductions.