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Japan Urges N. Korea to Provide Update on Abductee Probe

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 more information on an investigation into the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang decades ago.

In May, Pyongyang agreed to reopen a probe into the fate of Japanese abductees and of other missing Japanese in return for Tokyo easing sanctions against North Korea.

Later, Tokyo lifted some of its sanctions, including restrictions on travel and money remittances. But it kept in place a ban on exports to and from North Korea. The North had been expected to present an initial report on the probe by now.

Eriko Yamatani, Japan’s Minister of State for The Abduction Issue, said this week that she regretted the delay. “We are asking North Korea to provide a forthcoming and accurate report," she said.

To ease some sanctions

Despite the delay, Yamatani said her government has no plan to revoke its decision to ease some sanctions against the communist country, saying Tokyo will “keep the principle of action to action.”

The abduction matter has stalled progress on bilateral relations.

Tokyo and Pyongyang do not have diplomatic ties and the two sides have been at odds over what happened to the dozens of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.

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, Pyongyang admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese, mainly to train its spies in Japanese language and customs. It allowed five of the abductees to return home, but claimed that the others had died.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.