Abductee’s brother says he will run as independent in Upper House poll

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Teruaki Masumoto, a key member of a group of Japanese whose family members were abducted to North Korea, announced Friday that he will run as an independent in next month’s House of Councilors election.

Masumoto, 48, is the younger brother of Rumiko Masumoto. North Korea has admitted to having kidnapped her but has said that she later died.

Speaking at a news conference, Masumoto said that his distrust of the government and the Diet led to his decision to run in the Upper House race.

“The abduction issue will not be resolved by merely lobbying the government and politicians,” Masumoto said. “The ones who were agonized by the abductions, which are a violation of (our nation’s) sovereignty, need to get serious and change Japan’s politics.”

Masumoto, a native of Kumamoto Prefecture, plans to run in a Tokyo constituency. He said that becoming an elected politician will help him gather more information on hundreds of missing Japanese nationals, who he believes were kidnapped to the North.

Shigeru Yokota, head of the families’ group and father of Megumi Yokota, kidnapped in 1977 at the age of 13, said that while the group will not officially support Masumoto’s candidacy, its members intend to fully back him.

“The government said it will not impose sanctions on North Korea as long as it complies with the Pyongyang Declaration” agreed to by the two nations in 2002, said Yokota, who also attended the news conference. “The government is placing greater priority on forging friendly ties with the North rather than resolving the abduction issue.”

The declaration, signed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, stipulates that the two nations comply with international agreements aimed at resolving nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula.

Yokota will head Masumoto’s campaign support group, while Kazuhiro Araki, leader of the Investigation on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea, will manage his campaign headquarters.

Aid details unclear

The government said Friday it has yet to decide on various details pertaining to the food aid offered by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to North Korea during a visit to Pyongyang last month.

In a written response to a query submitted by Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Yukichi Maeda, the government said it has not yet decided when and through what international organizations Japan will begin providing the 250,000 tons of food aid.