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LEAD: Abe launches full gov't task force on N. Korea abductions.

TOKYO, Sept. 29 Kyodo


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set up on Friday a full governmental task force to deal with the issue of North Korean abductions of Japanese and pledged ''utmost'' efforts for an early settlement to abductees' kin.

''I'll do my utmost'' to deal with the long-pending issue, Abe said at a meeting with the abductees' relatives and their supporters, also joined by government officials including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki who also serves as minister in charge of the issue.

It was the first meeting since Abe took office Tuesday between the 52-year-old, who is eager to resolve the emotional issue in Japan, and people affected by the abduction cases.

Shigeru Yokota, 73, whose daughter Megumi was abducted at age 13 in 1977, voiced hope that Abe's task force will help make progress in the issue, telling reporters after the meeting at the premier's official residence, ''We're glad to find its lineup the most powerful ever.''

Yokota was referring to other key members of the task force including Kyoko Nakayama, who Abe appointed as a special adviser on the abductions, retained Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Suzuki, who Yokota said have been working hard to settle the issue.

Nakayama formerly worked to help repatriated abductees and their kin as a key Cabinet Secretariat official.

Yokota also said, ''We had called (on the successive governments) to set up a full task force on the abduction issue and appoint a minister in charge of it. Now the request has been realized.''

Comprising all Cabinet members, the task force will promote ''comprehensive measures,'' including developing policies for dealing with North Korea, and collecting and analyzing intelligence in a strategic manner, Shiozaki said at a news conference earlier in the day.

Installed as a standing organ, the task force is expected to hold its first meeting next month, focusing on ways to break the impasse in bilateral negotiations with North Korea since February, government officials said.

Meanwhile, a key supporter of the abductees' kin said a delegation of some relatives of the abductees and their supporters will leave Japan on Oct. 29 for New York to visit the missions of a number of U.N. member countries and seek their help to settle the abduction issue.

Pyongyang admitted in 2002 to having abducted 13 Japanese in the past but Tokyo believes many more have been abducted and are still alive in the North. The row over the issue has been a main obstacle to normalizing diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The Japanese government has already imposed sanctions on North Korea in response to its July 5 missile launches, banning port calls by the North Korean ferry Mangyongbong-92 and invoking financial sanctions on Sept. 19 under a U.N. Security Council resolution.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Oct 2, 2006
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