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A group of the families of Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea said Sunday the group’s representative, Shigeru Yokota, will not visit Pyongyang for the time being, but group members are planning to visit the United States to raise awareness of the abductions issue.

In a meeting in Tokyo, the families also agreed to demand apologies from the secretaries general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan. The families say party members have made insensitive remarks toward them and their cause.

They also called on parliamentarians to invite former North Korean agent An Myong Jin to the Diet. They want An to discuss what he knows about Japanese abductees in North Korea, including those Pyongyang denies knowledge of or says have died.

Yokota, 70, has repeatedly expressed his wish to visit Pyongyang to learn more about the fate of his daughter Megumi, who was abducted to North Korea in 1977 at the age of 13 and reportedly died there.

But most of the others in the group, as well as members of Yokota’s own family, have maintained their opposition to the idea. They fear that such a trip could be exploited politically by the North Korean government.

Yokota wants to meet his granddaughter, the daughter of Megumi and a North Korean man said to be Megumi’s widower. Yokota told a news conference after the meeting that his desire remains unchanged. He agreed, however, not to pursue a visit at this time so the abductions can be dealt with as a whole.

Yokota said the families had unanimously agreed to place their priority on getting more information about eight Japanese said to have died in North Korea. They will also focus on rescuing all Japanese forcibly taken to the country and the children of the five abductees who returned to Japan last October.

Among the reasons the families gave for not wanting Yokota to go to the North was that it did not make sense to visit a “criminal,” an apparent reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. They also said it would only give Pyongyang an opportunity to lie more, according to Toru Hasuike, whose brother Kaoru is one of the five abductees back in Japan.

All the families are willing to meet U.S. government officials and lawmakers so they can urge Washington to treat the Japanese abduction issue as an international concern, Hasuike said.

Another organization, a nationwide nongovernmental group aiming to rescue Japanese abducted to North Korea, has decided to send two senior members to the U.S. next Sunday for a week to lay the groundwork for the families to travel there.

Tsutomu Nishioka, secretary general of the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, said Saturday the two members will find out who will be willing to meet with the families and when they should go.

The families also issued a statement calling on LDP Secretary General Taku Yamasaki and DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada to retract recent statements related to North Korea and apologize.

Yamasaki reportedly said Japan could provide economic aid to North Korea if Pyongyang gives up its nuclear development program, even if the abduction issue remains unresolved.

Okada told a recent TV program that it was a mistake for the government not to have the five returnees go back to North Korea. Tokyo had promised Pyongyang they would return to North Korea after their October visit.

“We cannot forgive these remarks . . . which show they do not understand the nature of the abduction issue — that it is an infringement of citizens’ human rights and the state’s sovereignty,” the group said.

The group also decided to urge the Japanese government to recognize Takeshi Terakoshi and his two uncles, who went missing while fishing in the Sea of Japan in 1963, as victims of abduction.

Terakoshi, 53, who was 13 when he disappeared and is now a labor union vice chairman in North Korea, has denied he was abducted. He has said he and his uncles Sotoo and Shoji were rescued by North Koreans after a shipwreck.

But Shoji Terakoshi’s family joined the group last year, and his three sons took part in meetings with the families for the first time Sunday.

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