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Japan Steps Up Pressure on North Korea Over Abductions

FILE - Eriko Yamatani, Japanese minister in charge of abductions, speaks during an interview with journalists at her office in Tokyo, Sept. 17, 2014.

Japan has called on North Korea to provide information on the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago.

In an apparent attempt to push the North to move forward on an investigation into the abductions, Japan hosted a symposium in New York Tuesday that featured speeches by key officials from Japan, the U.S., and the U.N., who deal with North Korean human rights issues.

Last May, Pyongyang agreed to reopen an investigation into the fate of Japanese abductees in return for Tokyo’s easing of sanctions against the communist country. Tokyo did lift some of its sanctions, including restrictions on travel and money remittances, but Pyongyang has not provided promised results of the probe.

“The government of Japan strongly demands that North Korea promptly and honestly report the results of its investigation and that it ensure both the safety of and return of all Japanese abductees as soon as possible,” said Eriko Yamatani, Japan’s minister responsible for the abductions issue. "North Korea will have no future unless it resolves the abduction issue."

US, UN call for North to resolve issue

Robert King, the U.S. point man on North Korean human rights issues, said North Korea must choose between the full resolution of the issue and further isolation from the international community.

Marzuki Darusman, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, called for continued efforts by the U.N. to resolve the issue.

The event in New York Tuesday was part of Tokyo’s intensive campaign to rally international support for its efforts to seek answers from Pyongyang on the fate of Japanese abductees.

Last week, President Barack Obama expressed support for the Japanese efforts on the issue.

“We fully support Japan’s efforts to resolve the tragedy of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens. During my last visit to Japan, I met with the mother of one of those abductees and she described the awful pain that she has endured,” said President Obama during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In March, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution against North Korea in a bid to highlight the North’s abduction of foreign nationals.

Obstacle in Japan, N. Korea ties

The abduction issue has been a major obstacle to progress in ties between Tokyo and Pyongyang. The Japanese government officially recognizes 17 cases, but Japan’s National Police Agency said there are more than 800 missing Japanese who may have been abducted by the North.

In 2002, North Korea admitted to abducting 13 Japanese. Later, it allowed five of the abductees to return home, claiming the others had died. Last week, Pyongyang strongly criticized Tokyo for planning the symposium, saying the abduction issue had been already resolved.