The government will send a fact-finding mission to North Korea for four days beginning Saturday to gather information on Japanese nationals abducted to the Stalinist state.

“We want to gather as much information as possible,” including remains for possible DNA testing, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi told reporters Wednesday.

The mission will consist of about 10 officials from the Foreign Ministry and the Cabinet Secretariat.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda indicated at a news conference in the evening that the mission will mainly focus on details surrounding the abductions of the 14 Japanese nationals and the lives they led in North Korea as well as gathering information from officials on the eight people Pyongyang claims are dead.

Another focal point of the mission will be to confirm the identities of the five survivors by photographing and videotaping them, the top government spokesman said, adding that the mission will confirm and convey the abductees’ relatives demands to Pyongyang.

Fukuda also revealed that North Korea has notified Japan it will provide as much related information as possible.

During Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang on Sept. 17, Kim revealed that eight Japanese abducted to North Korea had died, five are alive and that it had no record of another Japanese, whom Tokyo also claims was abducted, having ever entered the Stalinist state.

The dispatch comes amid criticism from abductees’ relatives and the public that the delegation headed by Koizumi failed to obtain enough information about the missing.

Before the summit, Japan had claimed that North Korea had abducted 11 Japanese nationals from Japan and Europe between 1977 and 1983, a charge that the Stalinist state had long denied. But in a dramatic turnaround at the summit, Kim admitted his country had abducted Japanese and apologized.

North Korea also handed over information on an additional three abductees.

Allegations that several dozen other Japanese have been abducted to North Korea have recently surfaced.

“Police will be conducting investigations,” Kawaguchi said, referring to these other cases. “We will be keeping in close contact with police.”

Kawaguchi denied that National Police Agency officials will join the mission, saying, “No country is very positive about having another country’s police conducting investigations within its borders.”

Japan receives support

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives International Relations Committee has sent a letter to Japan in support of its efforts to seek a full explanation from North Korea over the abductions issue, his office said Tuesday.

“We share your government’s concern that there should be a full accounting of what happened to those Japanese nationals abducted and that such a crime against international law should never be allowed to happen again,” Henry Hyde, a Republican from Illinois, said in the letter to the Japanese government.

Dated Sept. 20, the letter was also sent Monday to Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ryozo Kato. It went on to express strong skepticism among Republican members about North Korea.

“A regime which would engage in such a despicable crime truly deserves to be called, in the words of President George W. Bush, an ‘axis of evil,’ ” the letter said.

Hyde offered congratulations on the groundbreaking Sept. 17 summit in Pyongyang between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, praising the meeting as a “success.”

“Let us hope that this first step taken by your prime minister leads to a greater change, where the North Korean regime is no longer an imminent threat to her neighbors, to the world at large or to its own people,” Hyde said.

The letter said Congress views the peace and stability of Northeast Asia as a critical issue for not only friends and allies in the region, including Japan, but the U.S. as well.

Hyde said the news about Pyongyang’s confirmation of abducting Japanese was shocking.

“The North Korean authorities have finally admitted to their heinous crime of kidnapping Japanese citizens, including a 13-year-old girl on her way home from school, by illegally trespassing on sovereign Japanese territory,” he said.

The letter offered sympathy to the families of the Japanese who were abducted to North Korea and, according to Pyongyang, later died there.

“We especially would like to offer our condolences to the bereaved families of those who have passed away, prisoners on a foreign shore far from their homes and loved ones,” it said.

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