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Japan's Abe Refuses Comment on Envoy's Trip to NKorea

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refused to comment Wednesday about an unexpected trip by a government envoy to long-time foe North Korea.

Isao Iijima, an aide to Prime Minister Abe, arrived Tuesday in Pyongyang. He was greeted at the airport by Kim Chol Ho, vice director of North Korea's Asian Affairs Department.

The purpose of the trip remains unclear. But some Japanese media speculate it may be related to Tokyo's push for more information about Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.

When asked about the issue at a parliamentary committee, Prime Minister Abe had little to say.



"Again, I have no comment on reports regarding Iijima visiting North Korea. However, our fundamental objective is to resolve the abduction issue including the return of all abductees, revelation of the truth, and the handover of the perpetrator to Japan."



North Korea has admitted it kidnapped some Japanese in order force them to teach the Japanese language and culture to North Korean spies. But it says all the abductees have since been returned or died. Some in Japan suspect the North is still hiding survivors and has abducted more people than it admits.



In recent months, North Korea has threatened to wage a nuclear war against Tokyo, as part of a wider response to those who supported expanded United Nations sanctions against its nuclear program.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe has taken a tougher stance on the North Korean nuclear and abductee issues, though Tokyo's foreign ministry has said the "door is not closed" to dialogue with the North.

Iijima, the Japanese envoy visiting North Korea, was a top aide to ex-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who held talks with North Korean officials in Pyongyang in 2002 and 2004.

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