Tokyo on Monday pressed Pyongyang to speed up its investigation into the fate of Japanese nationals it abducted decades ago after an anticipated preliminary report on its probe was delayed.
Senior government officials from Japan and North Korea met for a one-day meeting in Shenyang, China, where the two sides discussed the North’s investigation into the whereabouts of Japanese citizens it abducted in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The issue remains an emotional subject for many Japanese and a major thorn between the two nations, which have never had formal diplomatic ties. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made it a top foreign-policy priority, vowing to resolve the issue during his tenure.
“We see the abduction issue as a top-priority agenda. We expect a detailed explanation,” said Junichi Ihara, Japan’s top diplomat in charge of Asian affairs.
The long-standing issue saw a potential breakthrough in May when the North agreed to reopen an investigation into the abductee file. In July, Tokyo agreed to lift some of its unilateral sanctions it imposed on Pyongyang in exchange for the launch of the probe.
But while an initial report on the investigation was expected to be released sometime between late summer and early autumn, the North failed to deliver, informing Tokyo on Sept. 18 that its probe was still in its initial stages and would take one year to complete.
On Monday, the North stopped short of indicating when it planned to release the preliminary report on its findings.
“A sincere atmosphere prevailed throughout the meeting, and we agreed to make efforts to fulfill our agreement,” said Song Il Ho, North Korea’s top negotiator in the abduction talks.
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