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Japan Says Abducted Japanese Must Be on Korea Talks Agenda

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (File photo)
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has arrived in Japan late Monday ahead of talks Tuesday with top Japanese officials. The major topic will be North Korea's decision to return to six-nation nuclear talks.

Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic relations. And Tokyo has repeatedly said this is not going to change until Pyongyang comes clean about the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents. Most of the Japanese civilians were kidnapped in Japan during the Cold War era and were forced to train North Korean spies in Japanese language and culture.

Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura says Japan will use the new six-party talks to raise issues besides North Korea's nuclear weapons development.

Mr. Machimura says the resumption of the talks will be the first step in dealing with a variety of issues, including North Korea's missile development and the missing Japanese.

North Korea has said that the eight Japanese that have not already been repatriated are dead. Japan has termed as "unbelievable" Pyongyang's various explanations of their fates - such as dying in automobile accidents or succumbing to gas heater fumes. Five other Japanese were allowed to return to Japan after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi flew to Pyongyang in 2002 to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

A subsequent one-day visit by Mr. Koizumi last year failed to make further progress.

Since then the level of tension between Tokyo and Pyongyang has increased, as was evident by the comment North Korea made about its willingness to return to the six-way talks in Beijing before the end of this month.

Quoting a foreign ministry spokesman, a North Korean state television announcer says all of the neighboring countries to the Korean peninsula made efforts for the resumption of the talks - except Japan, which did nothing.

That comment was interpreted here as meaning North Korea will try to isolate Japan at the talks to avoid discussion of the abduction issue.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda says whether or not North Korea likes it, Tokyo has great hopes of discussing the fate of the Japanese at the talks.

And he adds that Japan plans to re-emphasize the importance of the abduction issue when Ms. Rice meets Mr. Koizumi and Mr. Machimura on Tuesday.