• Kyodo


China told North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during his visit in mid-April that it would host a reunion here between former Japanese abductee Hitomi Soga and her husband and their two daughters, sources said Wednesday.

Beijing apparently hopes that improved relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang would provide a breakthrough in the six-way talks on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Soga was abducted to North Korea in 1978 and returned to Japan in October 2002. Her American husband, Charles Robert Jenkins, is an alleged U.S. army deserter. He refused to leave North Korea for Japan last month.

The sources said Kim told Chinese President Hu Jintao in April that he would let the families of repatriated Japanese abductees go to Japan during his meeting with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. But Kim also told Hu that Jenkins’ hesitation to go to Japan “has become a pending issue,” the sources said.

Hu was quoted as saying that it is important to achieve progress in Japan-North Korean relations. He said, “If it would be difficult (for Jenkins) to go to Japan, we are ready to provide Beijing as the location for the family’s reunion.”