In a finding that raises serious doubts over the credibility of Pyongyang’s accounts of the kidnapping of Japanese nationals, authorities in Tokyo have concluded that bones North Korea claims are the remains of Kaoru Matsuki are probably not his.
Matsuki is one of more than a dozen Japanese abducted by North Korean agents in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Japan will request that North Korea conduct further investigations and provide information on the whereabouts of eight abductees, including Matsuki, whom Pyongyang claims have died, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a news conference Tuesday.
“We hope (North Korea) will promptly respond in good faith,” Fukuda said.
Japan may dispatch another fact-finding team to North Korea to collect more evidence about the fate of the eight, he said. The previous team visited Pyongyang about a month ago.
But Fukuda indicated Japan has no immediate plans to lodge a protest with Pyongyang for providing the wrong remains.
North Korea told the first Japanese fact-finding mission that it could not be completely certain that the bones were Matsuki’s because they had been washed away in a flood, recovered later and cremated for a second time, but that they appeared to be his.
The government said earlier this month that a DNA analysis of the bones could not prove that the remains belonged to Matsuki due to serious heat damage as a result of multiple cremations.
Masatsugu Hashimoto, a dental specialist who studied the left upper jaw bones, said they apparently belong to a woman over the age of 60 and are incompatible with a man of Matsuki’s build, as the size of the jaw and teeth are relatively small.
North Korea claims Matsuki died in a traffic accident in 1996 at the age of 43. But the dental sockets of the remains were too shallow for someone of that age, Hashimoto said.
Hashimoto also compared the teeth with an X-ray of the teeth of Matsuki’s sister as the size of a person’s teeth is inherited. He determined that the remains are probably not those of Matsuki, whose relatives generally have big teeth and deep dental sockets.
The findings have added to the serious doubts Japanese officials have expressed about Pyongyang’s explanations about the abductees North Korea claims are dead.
Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said at a separate news conference that her ministry intends to take up the new development in talks with North Korea, including normalization talks.
During the previous round of normalization talks, held in late October in Kuala Lumpur, Japan presented North Korea with a list of more than 100 points over which it expressed doubts in response to Pyongyang’s explanations, mainly concerning the fate of missing Japanese, and demanded an early response.
Home affairs minister Toranosuke Katayama urged the Foreign Ministry to take a firm stance toward North Korea, saying the abductions were acts of state terrorism that violate Japanese and international laws.
“If (North Korea) wants to hold normalization talks, it must also make efforts so that the other party can trust it,” Katayama said at a later news conference. “The situation is not one that can convince the Japanese public.”
Matsuki disappeared in Spain in 1980 at the age of 26 with another Japanese, Toru Ishioka, who is also reported to have died in North Korea.
The fact-finding team at the beginning of October brought back several samples of the bones that North Korea claims are those of Matsuki. Pyongyang said it could not supply the remains of the other seven, claiming most had been washed away in floods.
The eight are among the 13 Japanese whom Pyongyang has admitted abducting or luring to North Korea between 1977 and 1983. The five others were allowed to return to Japan last month.