Japan calls on North Korea to resume abduction probe

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.
Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. PHOTO: EPA

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan has voiced frustration at North Korea's decision to scrap an investigation into its past abductions of Japanese citizens.

Ministers nevertheless said they hoped to somehow persuade Pyongyang to make good on its promise, saying resolution of the emotional issue is a priority of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"It is extremely regrettable that (North Korea) declared the termination of the investigation," Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told a press conference Friday (Feb 12) in Canada, where he was visiting this weekend.

"We will continue to do our best to encourage concrete action by North Korea," he said.

Pyongyang on Friday (Feb 12) scrapped an investigation into its agents' past abductions of Japanese citizens in response to fresh sanctions imposed by Tokyo over its recent nuclear and long-range rocket tests.

Under an agreement brokered in Stockholm in May 2014, North Korea undertook to reinvestigate all abductions of Japanese citizens in what appeared to be a significant breakthrough on an issue that has long hampered Tokyo's relations with Pyongyang.

But there has been almost no progress since then, despite Tokyo's efforts to pressure the North into pushing forward with the probe and presenting its findings.

Katsunobu Kato, state minister in charge of the abduction issue, said Tokyo had no wish to discard the Stockholm accord.

"Considering the thoughts and feelings of the families of the kidnapping victims, we will give our all toward achieving the homecoming of their loved ones at the earliest time possible," Kato told journalists in Tokyo.

The abduction issue is a highly-charged one in Japan, where there are suspicions that perhaps dozens of people were taken.

North Korea outraged Japan when it admitted in 2002 that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies in Japanese language and customs.

Five of those abducted were allowed to return to Japan but Pyongyang has insisted, without producing solid evidence, that the eight others are dead.