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Monday January 15, 2007

Japan struggles to raise abduction issue in Asian summit, official says


CEBU, Philippines (AP): Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was expected to raise the alleged abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea in a summit of 16 Asian leaders Monday, an official said. 

Some leaders wanted a broader discussion on humanitarian concerns during the East Asian Summit but Japan has been lobbying to highlight the emotional issue, said Ong Keng Yong, secretary-general of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. 

Japanese diplomats also wanted the issue to be mentioned in a final communique to be issued at the end of the one-day meeting in the central Philippine city of Cebu, he said. 

"We want to talk about a broader subject called 'humanitarian concern' which includes abduction, but the Japanese think that the abduction should be highlighted,'' Ong told reporters before the summit opened. 

Asked if the abduction issue would be mentioned in a final communique, Ong replied: "They're lobbying us.'' 

A draft of the statement seen by The Associated Press mentioned the abductions but a Philippine diplomat said South Korea did not want that specifically mentioned _ apparently to prevent complications in efforts to prompt Pyongyang to denuclearize.  

The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. 

The East Asian nations "urge North Korea to actively address the security and humanitarian concerns of the international community, including food shortages ... and the abduction issue,'' the draft said. 

Japan has been in the forefront of international efforts to force the North to abandon its nuclear program, but has also strongly focused on the abductions. 

The North has acknowledged abducting 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to tutor its spies in Japanese language and culture. Pyongyang has allowed five to return home, but said the others are dead.  

It has refused to respond to demands for more information. 

North Korea maintains the abduction issue is finished, and has said Japan should be excluded from the nuclear talks if it doesn't drop the issue. Because of that, some participants in the talks have indicated concerns that the abduction dispute could complicate the main disarmament negotiations. 

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