Japanese Cabinet slams N Korea’s position on abduction issue as ‘unacceptable’

Tokyo, Feb 16 (UNI) Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi on Friday called “completely unacceptable” Pyongyang’s claim that the issue of abducted Japanese nationals allegedly held in North Korea had already been solved, adding that Tokyo was committed to addressing the problem in a proper manner.

On Thursday, Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said that if Tokyo abandoned the idea of putting forward “the already settled abduction issue” as a condition for mending bilateral relations, there would be no reason for the two nations not to become close and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to North Korea might take place.

“I would like to refrain from commenting on every statement by North Korea, but the claim that the issue of Japanese nationals held in North Korea has been resolved is completely unacceptable. There is no change in our government’s course, which aims to address complex problems such as the issues of Japanese nationals held in North Korea, the missile program and the nuclear program,” Hayashi told a press conference.

Kishida has on many occasions confirmed his desire to hold high-level talks with the North Korean leader to resolve problems in bilateral relations and has made it clear that efforts to do so are being made “through various channels,” Hayashi added.

On Tuesday, the Financial Times reported, citing people familiar with the talks, that the Japanese prime minister had intensified his efforts to meet with the North Korean leader. The summit is expected to focus on securing the release of Japanese citizens abducted decades ago, among other things, the report said.

Tokyo claims that the North Korean intelligence services have abducted at least 17 Japanese citizens since the 1970s, but Pyongyang has recognized only 13 cases of abductions. Five of them managed to return to Japan following visits to North Korea by former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2002. Pyongyang claims that the remaining eight people have died, but Japan considers the evidence presented for their deaths unconvincing or false, and continues to demand the extradition of all abductees.

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