Japan will not take action until abduction is solved, Iijima tells N. Korea

An adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told North Korean officials during his recent trip to Pyongyang that Japan will not budge an inch until the abduction issue involving Japanese nationals is resolved, a Japanese government source said Saturday.

In talks with North Korean officials, Isao Iijima demanded that Pyongyang return all Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea, handover the abductors and provide a full accounting of the abductions, the source said.

"The Japanese government will not take any action unless these issues are resolved," the adviser was quoted as telling the North Koreans during a just-completed four-day visit.

Iijima briefed Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga earlier in the day about his unannounced trip to North Korea, when they met at a Tokyo hotel soon after Iijima returned to Japan, the source said.

It is not known how the North Korean officials reacted to the Japanese demands.

Observers of Japan-North Korean relations are keen to learn what kind of message senior North Korean officials conveyed to Iijima about improving bilateral relations, including the issue of the abduction of Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s -- a key obstacle to normalizing bilateral ties.

According to the source, Iijima told Suga he held "frank talks" with senior North Korean officials, including Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, North Korea's parliament, and Song Il Ho, ambassador for talks to normalize relations with Japan.

Iijima told the North Koreans about Japan's intention to comprehensively resolve the abduction, nuclear and missile issues, and that the abductions must be settled under Abe's government.

"I received a report (of his trip) but I cannot comment," Suga told reporters after their one-hour talks at a Tokyo hotel.

Later Saturday, Suga is expected to brief Abe, who is currently in Oita Prefecture in southwestern Japan, by telephone about Iijima's trip, the source said.

In Oita, Abe told reporters, "My mission will not end until the day when all abductees' families will (reunite) and embrace their children" and he emphasized that the issue "must be resolved under the Abe Cabinet" through a policy of dialogue and pressure.

He said he will be briefed by Suga but should the need arise, he will talk directly with Iijima.

While Abe has vowed to resolve the longstanding abduction issue, Iijima's trip has sparked concerns from the United States and South Korea.

Iijima's trip surprised the United States and South Korea, which have been working closely with Japan on coordinating their policy response to North Korea's ambition to develop long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.

"We knew that North Korea would eventually shift their strategy to that of seeking engagement in an effort to split us, and to exploit any differences in our respective national positions," Glyn Davies, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, told reporters on Saturday at the end of his Japan trip.

But Davies said after meeting with officials in Japan, he is confident the Japanese government is "fully aware of the challenges and pitfalls of engaging North Korea."