North Korea may get deadline to fully explain Yokota’s fate

Japan will set a deadline for North Korea to give a full and honest account of the fate of abductee Megumi Yokota if it does not respond sincerely to a protest Japan filed over the matter, government sources said Saturday.

Japan lodged the protest after DNA tests confirmed the cremated remains which North Korea said were those of Yokota are not hers. A Japanese delegation was handed the remains during bilateral talks last month in Pyongyang.

Japan has urged North Korea to explain through diplomatic channels in Beijing why it presented the false remains, but the North has yet to respond.

The government will push this request and consider launching further talks with North Korea in early 2005 in pursuit of an explanation, the sources said.

If the North continues to prevaricate on the issue, Japan may set a specific date by which the country must give a convincing answer, the sources said.

If North Korea does not present a satisfactory explanation by that date, Japan may consider imposing economic sanctions, the sources said, adding this would violate the spirit of the Pyongyang Declaration between the two countries.

“Under such circumstances, Japan should send an ultimatum to North Korea,” a Foreign Ministry source said, suggesting that sanctions are a last resort.

Under the Pyongyang Declaration, signed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during their summit in September 2002, both countries pledged to tackle issues between them in a sincere manner.

Yokota was abducted at the age of 13 in 1977 and Pyongyang claims she killed herself in 1994.

On Saturday, Yokota’s parents, Shigeru and Sakie, appealed for the government to impose economic sanctions on North Korea quickly.

“Dialogue will get the abduction issue nowhere. Japan should immediately slap economic sanctions on Pyongyang,” they said at a gathering in Yao, Osaka Prefecture.