Last JAL hijackers ready to come home

Kyodo

The remaining four hijackers of a Japan Airlines passenger jet living in North Korea said Sunday they are ready to return to their native land if it helps improve bilateral ties between the two countries.

“Our existence has been a major issue in bilateral relations, and we are ready to return to Japan even if it results in a long detention,” the four told Kyodo News in an interview in Pyongyang.

They are Takahiro Konishi, 60, Shiro Akagi, 56, Moriaki Wakabayashi, 57, and Kimihiro Uomoto, 56.

They were part of a nine-member group who hijacked a JAL Boeing 727 to North Korea in 1970.

Three have died and two have returned to Japan, where they are in prison.

The timing for the remaining four to return depends on how bilateral talks develop and how the Japanese government will deal with the issue, the hijackers said.

Uomoto is suspected of involvement in the 1983 abduction of Keiko Arimoto, then 23, who Pyongyang says died in North Korea.

However, the four denied the allegation, saying they hope that after returning to Japan they could clear up suspicions they were involved in a series of abductions of Japanese nationals.