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Probe into fate of Japanese abducted by North Korea stirs speculation of early Japan poll

Published on Jul 15, 2014 5:43 PM
 
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) receives a petition from members of abduction issue groups at his official residence in Tokyo on July 4, 2014. As Japan presses North Korea for information on the fate of Japanese citizens abducted decades ago, speculation is simmering that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could use a possible breakthrough on the emotive issue to call a snap election. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) - As Japan presses North Korea for information on the fate of Japanese citizens abducted decades ago, speculation is simmering that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could use a possible breakthrough on the emotive issue to call a snap election.

History shows that securing the release of Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korea decades ago can deliver a hefty, if shortlived, boost to a premier's popularity.

North Korea agreed in May to reopen an investigation into the fate of missing Japanese, including those snatched by its agents to train spies in the 1970s and 1980s, in return for Japan easing some economic sanctions on the reclusive state.

An initial report is due in late summer or early autumn, though cynics believe North Korea already knows the whereabouts of the missing Japanese. "Towards a snap election in September" blared a speculative headline this week in the weekly tabloid Shukan Gendai. "Certain victory would follow a surprise North Korea visit," wrote the tabloid, suggesting that Mr Abe is hoping his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) could secure the two-thirds majority in the 480-seat Lower House that is needed to achieve his dream of revising the pacifist constitution. The LDP now has 294 seats.

 
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