Abductees, families can move to Japan: Takeuchi

North Korea will let kidnapped nationals stay permanently, if they want, Japanese official says

North Korea has already agreed to allow the families of the five kidnapped Japanese to permanently move to Japan if they so desire, Vice Foreign Minister Yukio Takeuchi said Monday.

“We have confirmed that North Korea will allow the whole family to return to Japan as soon as possible,” Takeuchi said.

Asked if that means permanently, Takeuchi said, “Yes, I think so.”

Takeuchi’s comment indicates that the abductees may return as early as next month, after the normalization talks in Kuala Lumpur on Oct. 29 and 30.

North Korea told the Japanese government’s fact-finding mission earlier this month that it will do its utmost to effect the return of the abductees and their children. The statement, however, was taken to mean only a temporary visit.

Whether the five and their children decide to permanently move to Japan depends solely upon their free will, Takeuchi said. “The government will respect their will, and we will do everything we can to realize their will.”

Jumped to conclusions

OBAMA, Fukui Pref. (Kyodo) The father of Yasushi Chimura, one of the five Japanese abducted to Pyongyang who are currently in Japan, on Monday corrected a remark he made over the weekend that North Korean officials had told Chimura to return to Japan as he was of no further use to the North.

Tamotsu Chimura, 75, told reporters that he should have said the Pyongyang officials told his son he could briefly visit Japan with his family as there was no pressing work for him in North Korea at present.

“I jumped to a conclusion,” the father said, indicating he had misinterpreted his son’s explanation. “It’s not that he was not needed.”

On Sunday, the father said Chimura had told him Friday that North Korean officials had said he and his family should return to Japan as Pyongyang no longer needed him. Chimura, 47, also reportedly told his father that he left his children in Pyongyang as he thought it would be cruel to bring them to Japan so soon, considering they cannot speak Japanese and might suffer culture shock.

The father also told reporters that while Chimura says he wants to go back to North Korea, his attitude shows he wants to stay in Japan.

Asked if he may visit North Korea, the father said: “(My son) has been asking me, ‘Dad, why don’t you come visit?’ But I will never go there.”

He said neither the Japanese government nor his son have said anything to confirm media reports that the permanent return of the abductees and their families in North Korea was expected to be realized by as early as November.

Yasushi Chimura married Fukie Hamamoto in North Korea in 1979, more than a year after they were abducted together from a beach in Obama, Fukui Prefecture, by North Korean agents. Hamamoto, 47, is also among the five visiting Japan.

The couple have a 21-year-old daughter and two sons, aged 18 and 15, all born in North Korea.

On Monday morning, the couple visited the graves of Hamamoto’s parents after spending the night at her family home.

The three other returnees are Kaoru Hasuike, 45, his wife, Yukiko Okudo, 46, both from Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, and Hitomi Soga, 43, from Mano, Sado Island, also in Niigata.

The five arrived in Tokyo from North Korea on Oct. 15 for a temporary visit. Chimura is scheduled to travel to Tokyo on Sunday and return to North Korea with the other returnees the following day.

Back to the beach

KASHIWAZAKI, Niigata Pref. (Kyodo) Kaoru Hasuike and Yukiko Okudo, two of the five Japanese currently visiting their homeland for the first time since being abducted to North Korea in 1978, viewed the beach here Monday from which they were kidnapped 24 years ago.

According to Pyongyang, they were abducted by North Korean agents along the Sea of Japan coast on July 31, 1978.

The couple and their relatives spent the day touring the city on a bus charted by the city of Kashiwazaki, visiting places Hasuike and Okudo remember from their pre-abduction days.

At around 10:45 a.m., the bus stopped for several minutes on a roadside near the beach from where they were abducted. The couple viewed the Sea of Japan from the bus.

Before that, they visited Kashiwazaki High School, from which Hasuike graduated, as well as shops where Okudo once worked.

The couple, who married in North Korea, have been visiting their hometowns since last week.