• Staff report

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The government would not oppose a visit to Japan by Hwang Jang Yop, a former top-ranking North Korean official who defected to South Korea in 1997, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Thursday.

The former secretary of the Workers Party of Korea reportedly expressed his desire to visit Japan at a meeting in Seoul Wednesday with family members of Japanese abducted to North Korea.

“It’s a matter the individual can freely decide,” Fukuda said at a news conference. “It’s up to him and not something the government should intervene in.”

Earlier this month in Seoul, Hwang also spoke with Shu Watanabe, a Diet member from the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. The lawmaker said that Hwang told him he is willing to visit Japan and “talk about everything” regarding North Korea.

Fukuda’s remark indicates that while Tokyo would not proactively urge the South Korean government to let Hwang travel abroad, it would not oppose it if he finds a way to do so.

“If we had needed to contact him, we could have done it before,” Fukuda added.

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