Japan wants North Korea to clarify 150 points over abduction issue

Kyodo

Tokyo plans to call on Pyongyang to provide more convincing answers to 150 questions and issues it raised in 2002 over North Korea’s abductions of Japanese, a government source said Saturday.

Japan will bring up the matter during talks with North Korea in the hope that it can clarify issues that were not fully addressed regarding Japanese kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, the source said.

The move comes as North Korea, based on an agreement with Japan after intergovernmental talks in late May, said it will set up a special committee to reinvestigate the whereabouts of the abductees.

Japan has decided to bring up what it says are 150 questionable points and discrepancies over North Korea’s past abduction probe because it has not been satisfied with responses made so far by Pyongyang and remains distrustful of it, the source said.

Japan’s distrust grew after one North Korean claim turned out to be false. In November 2004, the North handed over to Japan what it claimed were the cremated remains of Megumi Yokota, one of the abduction victims officially recognized by Tokyo. But DNA tests conducted in Japan revealed that the ashes were not Yokota’s.

Yokota, who was kidnapped to North Korea at age 13 in 1977 and whom the North said committed suicide in 1994, is now a symbolic figure among abduction victims.

According to the source, the list of questions involved 10 abduction victims, including Yokota, whose whereabouts Tokyo wanted Pyongyang to look into. The list was presented to North Korea during intergovernmental talks in October 2002, a month after then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang and the North Korean government unveiled the outcome of its investigation of the abductees.

At present, Japan officially lists 17 nationals as abductees but suspects North Korea’s involvement in many more disappearances. While five of the 17 were repatriated in 2002, Japan continues to seek the return of the remaining 12.

On the 12, Pyongyang claims that eight have died and four never entered the country.

The source said Japan has pointed out numerous questionable points in the results of North Korea’s abduction probe, such as the causes of deaths and errors in birth dates and addresses. There were also signs that data on medical documents had been altered.

In 2004, North Korea reinvestigated the fate of Japanese abducted decades ago, but Japan was dissatisfied with the results and asked the North to look further into the issue.

However, Pyongyang wrapped up the probe and said Yokota and the nine other abductees had either died or never entered the country.

During Japan’s next talks with North Korea, Tokyo plans to ask Pyongyang for information on the whereabouts of two people now listed as abductees, Kyoko Matsumoto and Minoru Tanaka, who in 2002 were not formally recognized by the Japanese government as abduction victims, the source said. They are among the four whom North Korea says never entered the country.