Japan to send team to North Korea for update on abductions

TOKYO - Japan will send officials to North Korea for an update on the reclusive country's investigation into the fate of Japanese citizens abducted decades ago to train spies, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday.

Japan eased some sanctions on North Korea in July in return for the North reopening its probe into the status of the abduction victims and had expected an initial report by early autumn.

But the North told Japan last month there were no concrete results to report and invited a Japanese delegation to go to Pyongyang for a detailed update, a proposal that was met with scepticism from some Japanese lawmakers and families of abductees due to Pyongyang's history of reneging on agreements.

"We have decided that it is meaningful, in light of moving the investigation forward, to let people in charge of the probe know that the abduction issue is our top priority, and ask them questions and obtain as much detailed information as possible,"Suga told a regular news conference.

Suga said the delegation would go to North Korea soon, but no date had yet be set.

The abduction issue has soured relations between the two countries. Pyongyang admitted in 2002 to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens and five abductees and their families later returned to Japan.

North Korea said the remaining eight were dead and that the issue was closed, but Japan pressed for more information about their fate and others that Tokyo believes were also kidnapped.