Japan may bring up additional cases of possible abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea if it finds sufficient evidence to back its claims, Foreign Ministry Press Secretary Hatsuhisa Takashima said Tuesday.
“If there are any cases in which the Japanese side considers there is good reason or rationale to believe this would be a possible suspected case of abduction by North Korea, then we may raise that issue in the course of discussions with the North Korean side,” Takashima said.
Additional cases would be brought up in October, when Japan and North Korea have agreed to resume negotiations to normalize diplomatic ties, as well as in the official-level talks to prepare for the resumption of negotiations.
Earlier in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda separately suggested that the government’s official list of abductees to North Korea may grow, referring to numerous reports of people having disappeared from Japan in mysterious circumstances.
The remarks come as police and supporters of those abducted have begun rechecking lists of people who have disappeared in mysterious circumstances, suspecting they too may have been taken to North Korea.
“Even if we have little evidence, it would be possible for us to ask (Pyongyang) to look into missing the Japanese,” Fukuda said.
Takashima, the Foreign Ministry’s top spokesman, added that if considerable improvement is made in bilateral relations, Japan could raise the cases of missing Japanese with North Korea — even though there may not be sufficient reason to suspect they were kidnapped.
“It’s simply up to the situation surrounding the forthcoming talks with North Korea,” Takashima said.
North Korea may voluntarily provide information on the whereabouts of others in addition to those on whom Japan has asked for information, he suggested.
When Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il met in Pyongyang on Sept. 17, the North reported on the whereabouts of 13 Japanese, including three who were not on Tokyo’s official list of people believed abducted, prompting moves to recheck unsolved cases of missing people.
Before the summit, Japan had alleged North Korea abducted 11 Japanese nationals from Japan and Europe between 1977 and 1983, a charge that the Stalinist state denied. But in a dramatic turnaround at the summit, Kim admitted his country had abducted Japanese and apologized.
Fukuda said the government is considering setting up an office “in a day or two” to help relatives of the abductees, although it will not be located within the Foreign Ministry as previously planned.
He said the office would involve the Foreign Ministry along with many other governmental bodies.
The government has already decided to set up a special forum among related Cabinet members to address the abductions, Fukuda said, adding the assistance office would be linked to the forum.
Among the three abductees not on Japan’s official list is a woman believed to be Hitomi Soga, a female nurse who went missing from Sado Island in the Sea of Japan in 1978 along with her mother, Miyoshi.
In the wake of the revelations at the summit, families of at least four missing Japanese who are not on the official list have raised the possibility their relatives may have been abducted to North Korea.
They include Takashi Osawa, an engineering official at a prefectural agricultural office in Niigata Prefecture who went missing in 1974 at age 27, and Miho Yamamoto from Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, who went missing in 1984 at the age of 20.
The others are Minoru Tanaka, a former restaurant employee from Kobe who has been missing since going overseas in 1978 at the age of 28, and Kyoko Matsumoto, who went missing at age 29 in 1977.
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