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Abe Describes N. Korean Leader as "Rational"
Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe

Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe described North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on July 23 as having a "rational" way of thinking and hinted at the possibility of being able to resolve the abduction issue with him.

"I got the impression that he is a leader who can talk logically and think rationally," Abe said of Kim, who he met in Pyongyang in September 2002 while accompanying Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for the first-ever Japan-North Korea summit.

In a speech in Yokohama, the Japanese government's top spokesman, who was deputy chief cabinet secretary at the time of the trip to North Korea, said Japan can pursue the resolution of Pyongyang's abductions of Japanese nationals if Tokyo thinks ahead.

Abe said the North's test-firing of ballistic missiles July 5, its receiving Koizumi on visits, and the Korean Peninsula nuclear crises since 1993 are all aimed at seeking an opportunity for direct negotiations with the United States.

"Critics say it is difficult to predict what North Korea might do, but it is a predictable country," Abe said. "It launched the missiles for the purpose of negotiating bilaterally with the United States."

He reiterated the Japanese government's stance of negotiating with Pyongyang on the premise that Japanese abduction victims still in North Korea are alive, saying that otherwise there is a risk that harm may be done to surviving abductees.

"We must take the approach of dialogue and pressure in inducing North Korea to think that its difficult problems will not be resolved unless it resolves the abduction issue," said Abe, considered a hard-liner on North Korea.

Other than five Japanese abductees already repatriated, North Korea says eight other Japanese taken or lured by its agents to the country are dead.

Japan rejects this assertion due to a lack of concrete evidence. Tokyo maintains there are three other Japanese victims of North Korean abduction.

A group in Japan investigating the possibility that missing Japanese nationals may have been abducted by the North estimates there may be more than 100 Japanese abduction victims.(Kyodo News)






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