The nation’s police are planning to treat more missing persons cases as abductions, National Public Safety Commission Chairman Sadakazu Tanigaki said Wednesday.

Tanigaki did not specify the number of cases that would be examined, but the government has a list of 15 Japanese involved in 11 cases it suspects were kidnappings carried out by secret agents from North Korea.

“There are cases in which we cannot rule out North Korean involvement. We are interviewing various people and re-examining files,” Tanigaki said in an appearance before the House of Representatives Cabinet Committee.

“If we find cases in which there is some likelihood, we will further ask the North Korean side via diplomatic channels and the Japanese Red Cross Society to explain the cases,” he said.

Tanigaki heads the police supervisory commission.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda meanwhile told a news conference Japan will continue conferring with the United States on the case of former U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins, who reportedly defected to North Korea in 1965.

Japan has asked the U.S. to pardon Jenkins, now 62, so he will be able to visit Japan and meet his wife, Hitomi Soga, 43, one of a group of five Japanese who have survived abduction by North Korea and are visiting Japan.

“We have told the U.S. of the situations on Japan’s side and exchanged opinions . . . it’s up to how the U.S. may decide,” said Fukuda, the government’s top spokesman.

Soga and four other abductees are in Japan on their first homecoming visit since they disappeared in 1978. The visits were made possible after North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Il, admitted that his country was involved in abducting Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s

In the two-day Japanese-North Korean normalization talks that resumed Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur, Japan demanded North Korea set a date for sending over the abductees’ relatives, who are in North Korea, and for halting its nuclear weapons program.

Hometowns get ready

The hometowns of five Japanese who were abducted by North Korea in 1978 and who are now on a homecoming visit have recently come up with plans to welcome and accommodate them and their families ahead of a hoped-for permanent stay.

In Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, hometown of Kaoru Hasuike, 45, and his wife, Yukiko (Okudo), 46, a council pursuing support measures for the permanent stay of the Hasuike family was launched Monday and will hold an inaugural meeting Friday.

The council hopes to secure psychological care for the abductees’ children and address the need for the offspring to learn Japanese.

The couple, who were abducted together, separated and later reunited, married in May 1980 in the North and have a 20-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son. Both offspring are now university students.

Obama, Fukui Prefecture, the hometown of Yasushi Chimura and his wife, Fukie (Hamamoto), both 47, may try to get local universities to accept the couple’s 21-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son.

The town also hopes to enroll their 15-year-old son in a junior high school in Japan and have a teacher or volunteer who speaks Korean tutor him one-on-one in Japanese language education.

An official said the city plans to respect the wishes of the Chimura family, because it has no idea what to expect in light of the insufficient information available about the education situation in North Korea.

The couple, abducted together 24 years ago like the Hasuikes, were also separated and later reunited. They married in the North in November 1979.

The Hasuikes and Chimuras recently registered their marriages and the births of their children with Japanese authorities. The children, who remain in North Korea, were apparently not told their parents are Japanese or that they had been abducted.

For Hitomi Soga, 43, local officials in her hometown, Mano, on Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture, on Tuesday said they would establish a support division to pave the way for her permanent stay with her two daughters and American husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, who remain in the North.

Soga married Jenkins, 62, in August 1980. Jenkins was a U.S. Army sergeant who allegedly deserted to North Korea in 1965. They have two daughters, 19 and 17, both university students.

Last week, the government decided to have the five abductees remain in Japan beyond the maximum two-week stay Tokyo and Pyongyang had initially and tentatively agreed upon, while it negotiates with North Korea about having their families brought to Japan.