At least three or four more Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea are "certainly" alive, a former Japanese state minister in charge of the abduction issue said Thursday.
The abductees Hiroshi Nakai referred to on a TV Asahi program are apparently in addition to the 12 Japanese nationals recognized as abductees by the Japanese government.
The former abduction minister said the information was obtained during Japan's probe into the abductions. He did not provide the names of the individuals.
Nakai said he had held secret talks four times with Song Il Ho, North Korea's ambassador for normalization talks with Japan, in China and Singapore since September 2010.
Japan's official list of nationals abducted in the 1970s and 1980s totals 17, of whom five were repatriated to Japan in 2002.
North Korea maintains the abduction issue has been resolved, but it remains a key stumbling block in the normalization of diplomatic relations.
Nakai also quoted Song as saying there are "more than 200" survivors among Japanese women who moved to North Korea with their Korean husbands under a 1959 to 1984 repatriation program.
Nakai was abduction minister while the Democratic Party of Japan was in power. He did not run in the general election last year and retired from politics.