WASHINGTON – A senior member representing families of Japanese abducted by North Korea urged the United States on Friday to keep North Korea on its list of terror-sponsoring nations until the abduction issue is resolved.
Teruaki Masumoto, secretary general of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, made the pitch with supporters in a meeting with Christopher Hill, the top U.S. envoy to the six-party North Korea denuclearization talks.
“If North Korea is delisted, it will give the country breathing space and make efforts to rescue our families take longer. So we want North Korea to be kept on the list,” he told reporters after emerging from the meeting at the U.S. State Department.
Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, made no direct reply to the plea and said only that he understands the nature of the issue but is in no position to make policy judgments on it, Masumoto said.
The United States has said it will remove Pyongyang from the blacklist and exempt it from the Trading with the Enemy Act as the process of denuclearization advances in line with a deal arranged with the six parties — North and South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.
Japan has urged the United States to refrain from taking North Korea off the terror blacklist until progress is made Pyongyang’s kidnapping of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s. Japan is urging the North to reopen or renew investigations into 12 of the 17 abductees on Japan’s official list — which excludes the five who were returned to Japan in 2002.
“My impression is that Mr. Hill takes what North Korea says at face value and may not believe the victims of the abductions are still alive,” Masumoto said. “We believe the victims are definitely alive.”
Masumoto and others later met with Dennis Wilder, senior director for Asia on the National Security Council, who was quoted as saying President George W. Bush has made no decision over whether to delist North Korea.