Pyongyang OKs new abductee probe

Demands of relatives not satisfied by dubious findings of first mission

Pyongyang has agreed to accept a second Japanese government fact-finding mission to investigate more details of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, government sources said Thursday.

Tokyo is considering sending its second mission to Pyongyang later this month, but prior to the resumption of talks aimed at normalizing diplomatic ties set for around the end of the month, the sources said.

Japan sent an 11-strong fact-finding mission to North Korea from Sept. 28 to Tuesday to verify Pyongyang’s claims that eight of the 13 Japanese nationals North Korea has admitted to abducting are dead but that five are alive.

The information given to the team regarding the deaths did not satisfy the demands of relatives of the abductees or the government.

The government wants police investigators and identification experts to be included in the second mission, as Pyongyang refused to allow them to take part in the first mission, the sources said.

The government is now analyzing information North Korea gave to the first mission and will ask the North for further details about the abductees when the second mission visits, they said.

If Pyongyang refuses to explain or provide evidence, the government will take up the matter during the negotiations to normalize ties, the officials added.

According to the sources, the members of the first government mission told North Korean officials it is necessary for Pyongyang to provide information and evidence confirming the deaths of the eight Japanese.

The team also demanded identification of the organization and detailed proof of the punishments that North Korea claims it meted out to the people responsible for the abductions.

It also called for an opportunity to conduct further interviews with people involved in the abduction cases, and the North Korean side agreed to continue its own investigation until the second mission visits the country.

The second mission will also deal with the handover of Japanese members of a radical group that hijacked a Japan Airlines plane in 1970 and how the hijackers will be questioned, the sources said.

The members are suspected of being involved in the abduction of Keiko Arimoto, one of the eight deceased Japanese, and others.

The first government mission confirmed the identities of five surviving abductees but not of the eight Pyongyang said had since died.

North Korea told the Japanese mission there were no other abductees outside the 13, and that it executed in 1998 or later an agent responsible for the series of kidnappings.