• Kyodo


A Japanese fact-finding mission investigating North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s arrived in Pyongyang on Saturday afternoon.

The 11-member government mission, which left Tokyo on Friday, had stayed overnight in Beijing before leaving for the North Korean capital.

The group will examine the accuracy of North Korea’s claim that eight of the Japanese it abducted are dead while five are still alive, Foreign Ministry officials said. Akitaka Saiki, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, is heading the group.

The group plans to meet surviving abductees and videotape them. It will also ask whether they want to return to Japan, the officials said.

The mission team will question North Korean authorities about how and when the allegedly dead abductees Japanese died and whether they had any relatives, the officials said. The team will also try to locate the graves of the abductees that Pyongyang claims are dead.

In addition, the group intends to ask North Korean authorities to allow them to interview people who know about the abduction victims, according to the officials.

Prior to departure from Beijing, Saiki told reporters, “We want to fulfill our duty properly and are expecting full cooperation from North Korea.”

The group is scheduled to remain in North Korea through Tuesday before returning to Japan again via Beijing.

The mission includes Kenji Hiramatsu, chief of the ministry’s Northeastern Asia Division, and one official on loan from the National Police Agency. A Cabinet Secretariat official formerly with the health ministry is also participating.

Also part of the team are a medical attache from the Foreign Ministry and a forensic expert from Tokyo Dental College who is versed in DNA examinations.

Members of the mission have not ruled out the possibility they will leave North Korea with the surviving abductees, saying, “We are not certain until we investigate it.”

Supporters raise cash

KYOTO (Kyodo) A local group demanding the return of Megumi Yokota and other Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea held a fundraising drive Saturday outside JR Kyoto station to support Yokota’s parents.

Along with group members, about 10 classmates of Yokota’s mother, a native of Kyoto, asked passersby for donations to cover expenses such as travel costs for the family. Megumi went missing in 1977 at age 13 while on her way home from her school in Niigata Prefecture.

“The information (on the abductees) from North Korea is unbelievable. I want the (Japanese) government’s investigative delegation to thoroughly clarify the truth,” Hisao Nishimura, Yokota’s 79-year-old uncle, said at the station. “I want Megumi to be well.”

Yokota was listed among the dead by North Korea, which provided the information when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il held a landmark summit Sept. 17 in Pyongyang.

The Kyoto group was established in 1999 and has about 100 members. It coordinates activities with the national confederation that supports families of the abductees.

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