Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday it is too early to discuss the possibility of his visiting North Korea, following Pyongyang's recent promise to reinvestigate the fate of Japanese nationals it abducted in the 1970s and 1980s.
"It's too early to make a decision on that," Abe told reporters at Tokyo's Haneda airport when asked if he may visit North Korea in the final stages of talks on the abduction issue.
"I would like to urge North Korea to produce results (in the reinvestigation)," Abe said. "Time is running out. The families of abduction victims are getting older. We will do our utmost to have North Korea keep its promise."
He made the remarks before leaving for Belgium, the venue of two-day Group of Seven summit talks starting Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said a visit by Abe to North Korea may be one option to settle the long-standing abduction issue.
Kishida, speaking at a session of the House of Councillors Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said the government would study the possibility of a trip by Abe to North Korea, though "nothing has been decided at present."
During intergovernmental talks between the two countries in Stockholm last week, North Korea agreed to reinvestigate the fate of Japanese citizens it abducted in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Japanese government says North Korea abducted 17 Japanese nationals. Among the victims was Megumi Yokota, who was kidnapped to North Korea at age 13 in 1977.
When Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang in September 2002, North Korea admitted to having abducted 13 Japanese nationals. Five of the 13 were later repatriated to Japan.
North Korea has said the remaining eight, including Megumi Yokota, have already died and that four others had not even entered the country.