Decades after the state-sponsored abduction of 13 of Japanese nationals, North Korea has announced that it will reopen an investigation into the case, in return for lifting sanctions against the shut-off nation.
In 2002, North Korea admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens during the 1970s and 1980s, and using them to train their own spies in the language and culture of Japan, reports the Associated Press’ Mari Yamaguchi. Five were eventually returned to Japan, but the other eight allegedly died in captivity. In return for a probe into the kidnappings and the confirmation of a committee to lead it, Japan will consider sending humanitarian aid to the "hermit kingdom." It will also relax sanctions, including limits on the amount of money that ethnic Koreans in Japan can take with them on North Korean visits; restrictions on bilateral exchanges; and a ban on port calls by North Korean-flagged ships.
Many Japanese remain skeptical of North Korea and believe that 13 is a wild underestimation of the true number of abductions. Japan remains “suspicious,” according to Yamaguchi, and an earlier search for the missing Japanese was called off by North Korea in 2008. Several groups put the number closer to between 60 and 100, and some even doubt claims that the eight “dead” Japanese are even deceased.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a news conference that Japan's mission to find their missing citizens “will never end until the day comes when families of all abduction victims are able to embrace their children with their own arms.”