North Korea should return all the Japanese people abducted by the communist country first before Japan's prime minister could visit Pyongyang for a summit meeting, a Tokyo minister said Tuesday.
A summit meeting would take place in the last stage and the key prerequisite for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to North Korea is that all the abducted Japanese people come home, said Keiji Furuya, the minister in charge of the abduction issue, in an interview with the Washington-based Voice of America.
Japan's stance is that all the abducted Japanese nationals should be sent home, he said, adding that as many as 860 Japanese people are believed to have been kidnapped by Pyongyang.
The remarks by the Japanese minister came as Pyongyang and Tokyo recently resumed their talks to solve their long-standing bilateral issue of the North abducting Japanese people decades ago mainly to train North Korean spies.
In their talks last month in Stockholm, the countries agreed to reopen the abduction issue, with the Japanese side alluding to its prime minister's visit to Pyongyang if enough progress is made.
The North has promised to set up a special committee on the abduction issue within this week, the Japanese minister said, adding that Japan is waiting to hear from Pyongyang on the implementation of the promise.
Touching on concerns that the direct Japan-North Korean contact could impair the trilateral Seoul-Washington-Tokyo partnership in dealing with North Korea's nuclear program, the minister said Japan is keeping Seoul and Washington informed about the ongoing talks and will continue to work with the two neighbors. (Yonhap)