Admission casts fresh doubt on abductee’s fate

Abductee Megumi Yokota, who is said to have died in North Korea in March 1993 after being kidnapped in 1977, may have been alive at least until October that year, her father said Monday.

North Korea made the revelation during two days of working-level talks with Japan that ended Sunday in Beijing on the abduction issue, Shigeru Yokota told reporters.

Yokota spoke to reporters after he was briefed by Foreign Ministry officials on the results of the Beijing meeting.

Japan demanded during the talks that North Korea reinvestigate the cases of 10 Japanese whom Tokyo says were abducted to North Korea but are still unaccounted for.

In 2002, North Korea told Japan that Megumi had died in a Pyongyang hospital on March 13, 1993.

But this latest development has cast further doubt on the veracity of North Korea’s account of her fate and has fueled fresh anger among relatives of the abductees, Shigeru Yokota said.

North Korea told Japan there were records indicating that Megumi had stayed at a hospital from April 29, 1993, to June 3 the same year, and from Aug. 3 to Oct. 8, according to a document obtained by Kyodo News.

But North Korea did not elaborate on her fate after Oct. 8, according to Yokota.

North Korea rejected Japan’s allegations that one of four Japanese nationals who went to North Korea in an airplane they hijacked in 1970 and is still living there was involved in an abduction case, the document states.

Japanese police have placed Kimihiro Uomoto on the wanted list, alleging he was involved in the North’s abduction of Keiko Arimoto from Europe in 1983.

Yokota told a news conference later Monday that the relatives want the government to continue bilateral talks regardless of how recalcitrant North Korea is.

The news conference was held by relatives of the abductees and their supporters.

“Nothing will be left for us if there are no opportunities for negotiations,” said Megumi’s mother, Sakie.