Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi apologized Friday for the ministry’s failure to disclose information it received from North Korea regarding the dates of the deaths of eight abducted Japanese nationals.
“I am sorry,” Kawaguchi said, referring to the fact that the information was withheld from the abductees’ families.
Kawaguchi was addressing a meeting of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs called to discuss Tuesday’s landmark summit in Pyongyang between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
A list handed over by North Korea at the summit features the names of 14 Japanese. It confirms that eight of the abductees have died and specifies the dates on which they did so.
The ministry informed the relatives of the abductees’ deaths on Tuesday, but failed to inform them of the death dates until Thursday , when this information was reported in a newspaper.
During the same Lower House committee meeting, summit participant Hitoshi Tanaka, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, said, “I’m sorry, I apologize.”
At a news conference earlier in the day, Kawaguchi said the ministry should have been more forthright in providing the relatives with all the information available.
“I believe the families would want to know whatever the information was as soon as possible,” Kawaguchi said. “(The ministry) should have given the families the information, but under the understanding that it might have been wrong.”
Kawaguchi said it is likely ministry officials withheld the information out of misplaced consideration for the families. She said the officials did not want to confuse the families by giving them information that had only been given to Japan unofficially.
Kawaguchi claimed she only learned of the list on Thursday evening, when she returned from a visit to the United States.
Supporters of the families claim there are more abductees than those on the government’s official list of 11.
Kawaguchi said the government will continue to investigate other possible abductions and will demand information from Pyongyang.