The wife of one of nine Japanese fugitives wanted in the hijacking of a Japan Airlines jetliner to Pyongyang in 1970 has admitted arranging for a Japanese university student to go to North Korea in 1980 but denies the action constituted an abduction.

“In 1980, I went to Europe with a male university student in his 20s so that he could go to North Korea, and introduced him to North Koreans,” Tamiko Uomoto, now living in North Korea, recently said in a telephone interview.

Uomoto, 50, is the wife of Kimihiko Uomoto, 55, who is on an international wanted list on charges that include involvement in the abduction of a Japanese woman from Europe to North Korea in 1983.

But Uomoto, whose maiden name is Abe, denied that any of the hijackers or their spouses played any part in the abductions of Japanese, claiming, “The university student returned to Japan. None of the (hijacking) members were ever involved in abductions.”

However, the former wife of another hijacker testified in Japan that she took part in the abduction of Keiko Arimoto from Europe to the North for the purpose of having her marry a Japanese man in the reclusive state.

Last September, Tokyo police obtained an arrest warrant for Uomoto’s husband on suspicion of involvement in the abduction of Arimoto and had him placed on the international wanted list. Uomoto is on the list for refusing a government order to return her passport.

Uomoto said she left Japan for Europe in fall 1976, met her husband-to-be there the following year, married and then made her first trip to North Korea in November 1978 to have their son.

She claimed she returned to Japan in January 1980 and lived in Nagoya for about seven months, working at a factory while trying to find out about the state of affairs in Japan and making preparations for her husband and the other Red Army Faction hijacking fugitives to come back.

“In the summer of 1980, I left Japan together with the university student, who expressed a wish to go to North Korea. I introduced him to North Koreans and we parted in Amsterdam,” Uomoto said.

She said the student, whose identity she refused to disclose, later told her that he stayed in North Korea for about a month and then returned to Japan.

Uomoto said she came back to Japan again and from September 1982 to July 1983 lived in Kawasaki. She met the student again, and the two communicated with each other for a while after that, but “now we have lost touch,” she said.

In addition to the student’s case, police said they are reviewing possible missing person reports in Nagoya around 1980 as there was an inquiry from a woman to a factory there where Uomoto was working, claiming her son disappeared after telling her he was going abroad with Uomoto.

On May 27, Kanagawa Prefectural Police issued a warrant for Uomoto, alleging she used a fictitious name to open a bank account in 1982. She said she does not think the action merits an arrest.

“I don’t have a clear memory, but if I had used a fictitious name, it was likely because I didn’t have a fixed address,” she said. “But it’s been 21 years, and I wonder if it’s a crime serious enough to justify an arrest warrant.”

Kanagawa police said they planned to add the warrant for Uomoto to the international wanted list she was placed on in 1993 by Tokyo police for her failure to respond to a Foreign Ministry order to return her passport due to her alleged contacts with North Korean agents.

Last September, North Korea told Japan during Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s summit in Pyongyang with Kim Jong Il that Arimoto was among eight Japanese who were abducted or lured to North Korea and died there.

It said five others were living in Pyongyang, and they were allowed to return to Japan in October.

Arimoto, a former college student from Kobe, was studying English in London in 1983 when she disappeared at age 23 after writing to her parents from Copenhagen.

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