Japan confirms N Korean ‘missing’


A Japanese Government mission has met with Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.

Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said a government mission to Pyongyang had identified five Japanese now living in North Korea.

It had also been told more details about how eight others died.

North Korea said that one of the eight, Megumi Yokota, committed suicide in 1993 at a mental hospital in Pyongyang where she was being treated for depression.

The mission went to North Korea after its leader, Kim Jong-il, admitted last month that North Korean agents had abducted at least 13 Japanese nationals who were then used to train North Korean spies.

The admission formed part of a diplomatic push by normally secretive North Korea, apparently keen to resume dialogue with the outside world, especially with the US.

A US special envoy, James Kelly, is due to travel to North Korea on Thursday for talks which would re-establish a dialogue which has been on hold for more than two years.

Unwilling to return

The Japanese mission spent four days in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, interviewing some of the people who were abducted.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency, quoting unnamed sources, said the survivors were not yet ready to return to Japan because of their jobs, or because their children do not speak Japanese.

Mr Abe said the mission had been told the eight who died suffered from diseases or natural disasters.

North Korea said two of the eight died on the same day in a car crash, while a further two inhaled noxious fumes from a coal stove.

There is considerable scepticism about the North Korean claims among Japanese family members, who also believe some of the eight may still be alive.

Those doubts are likely to be stirred by North Korea’s claim that seven of the graves of the eight were washed away in a flood.

Megumi Yokota, the woman North Korea said committed suicide, was abducted in 1977.

She was reported to have left a teenage daughter in North Korea, and the mission was given some of the girl’s hair for DNA testing to confirm the story.

Sakie Yokota, Megumi’s mother, told a news conference: “This has just reaffirmed for me how horrible a country North Korea is”.

Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has told relatives of the captured that the issue remains his top priority in dealings with Pyongyang.


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