N. Korean envoy says to 'swiftly' begin probe on abduction of Japanese
BEIJING, May 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's chief negotiator in handling relations with Japan said Friday that his government will "swiftly" form a special commission with Tokyo to launch a new investigation into the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents decades ago.
Song Il-ho, North Korea's ambassador for talks to normalize relations with Japan, made the remarks upon his arrival at a Beijing airport, wrapping up three days of talks with Japan during which the two sides agreed to reinvestigate the abduction issue. In return, Japan agreed to ease sanctions against North Korea if the North lives up to its pledge.
The agreement, reached at the just-ended talks in Sweden between Song and Junichi Ihara, head of the Japanese foreign ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, is seen as a major breakthrough between the two nations, which have no diplomatic ties.
"As the two sides agreed to swiftly begin an investigation into the abduction issue, we plan to form a special commission as soon as possible," Song told reporters in Beijing.
Asked about published reports by Japanese media that a special commission would be formed in about three weeks, Song replied, "Once the two sides agreed to do so within the earliest possible time, we are willing to do so."
In a rare show of confidence, Song said North Korea is vowing to deliver on its pledges during the talks with Japan.
"The agreement was reached after a long time," Song said. "So, I think it's more important that the two sides implement the agreement by continuing to build a mutual trust."
North Korea had previously said the abduction issue was settled. In 2002, North Korea admitted to abducting 13 Japanese nationals in the 1970s and '80s. The North then let five of them return home but said eight others had died, though Japanese officials believe that some of them are still alive.
One of those Japanese who North Korea claimed to have died is Megumi Yokota, who was abducted in 1977 at the age of 13.