Pyongyang has on several occasions offered to allow the families of two Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea to visit Japan in exchange for food aid, but Tokyo has turned down the offers on the grounds that all the abductees’ relatives should be allowed to come to Japan, a daily reported Saturday.
According to the Sankei Shimbun, Pyongyang offered to let Kim Hye Gyong, 15, the daughter of Megumi Yokota, and Charles Robert Jenkins, the husband of Hitomi Soga, one of five Japanese who returned last October after being abducted to North Korea in 1978, come to Japan.
North Korea has told Japan that Yokota, who was abducted by North Korean agents from Niigata Prefecture in 1977 at age 13, committed suicide in 1993.
Soga’s husband Jenkins, a former U.S. Army sergeant listed as having deserted in 1965, lives with their two daughters in the North Korean capital.
The daily said the Japanese government has rejected the offers, apparently due to Tokyo’s policy that all relatives of the abductees, including Kim and Jenkins, must be allowed to travel to Japan.
Yasushi Chimura and his wife Fukie, both 47, Kaoru Hasuike, 45, and his wife Yukiko, 47, as well as Soga, 44, were repatriated last year after being abducted to North Korea in 1978. Soga’s husband and the children of the five remain in the North.
The daily reported that two key North Korean officials who have contacts with Deputy Foreign Minister Hitoshi Tanaka, and the head of the Foreign Ministry’s North East Asia Division, Kenji Hiramatsu, made the offers on separate occasions.
The daily also said Tanaka had secretly visited the United States in mid-May to convey Pyongyang’s request for the U.S. government to provide a security guarantee for “the regime of (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Il.”
Tanaka did so, apparently in an effort to solve the abduction issue by continuing dialogue with Pyongyang, the daily said.
Two nationwide groups representing the victims and families of other abducted Japanese issued a statement Thursday, demanding that Tanaka and Hiramatsu be relieved of their duties on North Korean issues, accusing them of being “hostile” to their cause.
The groups accused Tanaka of “betrayal” in an attempt to prevent Japan from taking a stronger stance on North Korea and Hiramatsu, of making a “perfunctory” presentation in explaining Japan’s position at the U.N. Human Rights Commission in March on the abduction issue.
Pyongyang acknowledged in September that it had abducted or lured 13 other Japanese to North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s but said they have all since died. The families of the abductees said they do not believe Pyongyang’s claim.
Japan has no diplomatic ties with North Korea. Bilateral talks have come to a standstill since Tokyo refused to let the repatriated five return to North Korea after what was supposed to be a two-week homecoming visit in October.
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