N.Korea says abduction issue resolved

North Korea's foreign ministry has released a statement stressing that the issue of abductions of Japanese nationals has already been resolved.

The statement was issued on Tuesday under the name of a researcher at the ministry's institute for Japan studies.

It alleges that the abduction issue "no longer stands as an issue" between the two countries.

The statement comes after Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio pledged to do all he can to get all the abductees back home at a rally in Tokyo on May 29.

The North Korean statement criticizes Kishida by name.

It says he is trying to win as many votes as possible in the upcoming Upper House election by deceiving the Japanese people with the abduction issue once again.

The Tokyo-based Radiopress news agency says this is the first time since 2005 that the North has directly referred to a rally on the abduction issue.

Japan and North Korea will mark the 20th anniversary of a key political document, the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration, in September. But Japan has been enhancing its cooperation with the United States and South Korea in the face of the North's nuclear and missile threats.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu told reporters on Wednesday that North Korea's claim in the statement is totally unacceptable.

He said Japan continues to aim to comprehensively resolve pending bilateral issues, including the abduction and nuclear and missile issues, settle the unfortunate past and normalize ties in line with the Pyongyang Declaration.

Matsuno said the abduction issue is a top priority for the Kishida government. He added the government will not miss any chance to bring back all the abductees as soon as possible.

Japan's government says at least 17 citizens were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 80s. Five returned in 2002, but the other 12 remain unaccounted for.