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Japan's Cabinet to Tackle North Korean Abduction Issue


In one of his first significant actions as Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe has established a special team to deal with the lingering issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents.

Japan's government on Friday established what it calls a Cabinet headquarters, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to deal with the issue of Japanese kidnapped during the Cold War era by North Korea.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki says the team is to include all members of the Abe cabinet.

Shiozaki says the special team will take what he calls comprehensive measures and will be a clearinghouse for strategic intelligence dealing with North Korea. The goal, he says, is to bring about the quick return of any remaining survivors.

Pyongyang has admitted that its agents kidnapped 13 Japanese who were taken to North Korea to train its spies in Japanese language and culture. Five were allowed to return to Japan following an unprecedented meeting between then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2002. But North Korea has insisted all the others have died.

That contention was met with great skepticism by families of those kidnapped and many politicians here.

The Japanese government, which thinks more of its citizens may have been snatched than North Korea admits, has said it is not satisfied with the answers it has received so far from Pyongyang.

Mr. Abe, who took office on Tuesday, is known as a hardliner on the abduction issue. Several members of his cabinet have similar stances on the matter.

There are no diplomatic ties between Tokyo and Pyongyang. Japan has said that discussions about establishing formal relations cannot begin until the abduction issue is resolved.

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