North Korea is willing to provide Japan with a report on the initial findings of a special investigation team, which is looking into the abductions of Japanese citizens over the years by Pyongyang. North Korea accepted in 2002 that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens to train them as spies during the 1970s and 1980s.
The North later declared the matter closed after announcing that eight of the prisoners were dead and returned the remaining five to Japan. However, after Tokyo insisted on a fresh probe because it suspected more than five were alive, North Korea began a follow-up investigation into the abductees' whereabouts. On Wednesday, after families of the kidnapped Japanese nationals reportedly brought international pressure on Pyongyang, the reclusive country reportedly agreed to release a report on the investigation's findings.
Song Il-ho, a North Korean official who is negotiating the matter with Japan, said Wednesday, that the country will release the first report soon, Kyodo News, a Japanese news agency reported.
“What can be said is that we are conducting the investigation not only in a specific area, but all concurrently in a scientific and objective manner," Song said Wednesday, according to Reuters, which cited Kyodo News, adding: "We are fully prepared (to release the first report)."
The statement from the North Korean official follows Japan's move in July to soften sanctions including travel restrictions and a curb on the amount of money that can be sent or brought in. Japan had also opened up port calls by North Korean ships for humanitarian reasons, but maintains a ban on trade and chartered flights from North Korea.
"We have no confirmation. Negotiations are ongoing through the Beijing embassy ... We strongly demand that North Korea conduct the investigation with sincerity and report all the findings honestly," Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, said Thursday, according to Reuters, adding that Tokyo will consider further easing sanctions against Pyongyang as the investigation moves along.
Eriko Yamatani, Japan’s state minister in charge of abduction affairs, said at an international symposium held in Geneva by the U.N., according to Kyodo News, "Time is pressing to bring resolutions to the human rights issue in North Korea," adding: "We yet do not know what North Korea would come up with when they first inform us of the status of their investigation."