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    Abductee issue still on the table

    The Yomiuri prints an AP story relating that President Bush has promised not to forget the importance of the abductee issue to the Japanese:

    U.S. President George W. Bush told Japan’s premier Wednesday he understands Tokyo’s concern about Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea.

    Bush telephoned Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and told him that he “would not forget the abduction issue,” said a statement from Japan’s Foreign Ministry.

    The 20-minute phone conversation came a day before North Korea is expected to provide a list of its nuclear activities, a process that could lead to taking Pyongyang off Washington’s terrorism and sanctions blacklists in exchange for the regime giving up its nuclear weapons program.

    North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 80s is a high-profile issue here, and Tokyo has long pushed for the resolution of the abductions as a condition for providing aid and improved relations to the communist nation.

    Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura on Tuesday suggested that Tokyo would not want Pyongyang taken off the U.S. terrorism blacklist until the abductions were resolved.

    Komura is expected to voice Tokyo’s concern during talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is to visit Japan Thursday for a Group of Eight foreign ministers’ meeting.

    Japan has been frustrated with the DPRK denuclearization talks because the abductee issue is consistently back-burnered. The Bush administration has regularly expressed sympathy with the families of abductees, and, of course, kidnapping of civilians is an act of aggression. But it’s not surprising that the DPRK hasn’t given Japan any real satisfaction on most of them. Their records may just have disappeared or not been kept systematically in the first place, and who knows how methodically the corpses of those now dead were processed.

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