Japan will not allow normalization talks with North Korea to outpace progress on resolving the issue of Pyongyang's abductions of Japanese citizens, a top government official said Monday. Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe's comments came after negotiators in Beijing decided to break up Japan-North Korea talks into three working groups, each focusing on different topics: abductions, security issues and re-establishing diplomatic ties.
But Abe said resolving the abduction issue was still Japan's top priority. "We will continue our effort so that the abduction issue, which is the most important, makes concrete progress," Abe said. "We will never let only normalization talks to move ahead while leaving behind the abduction issue."
North Korea has admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 80s, and allowed five victims to return to Japan in 2002, saying the other eight were dead. Tokyo, however, is demanding proof of the deaths and a full investigation into other suspected kidnapping cases.
Families of the kidnapping victims fear that splitting up negotiation issues could let North Korea win its goal of normalizing ties and getting development aid from Japan without resolving the abductions. The Yomiuri newspaper, in an editorial Monday, said the government should not give North Korea the impression that normalization is possible without resolving either the abduction issue or security concerns over the North's nuclear and missile programs. Breaking negotiations into three categories will let negotiators to take up each issue with a "comprehensive focus," said Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Using this approach, Koizumi told reporters, negotiators can develop concrete proposals for each area of concern.
Nonetheless, the Japanese government also remains committed to its basic principle that there will be no normalization without resolution of the abduction issue, Abe said, reports the AP. I.L.