• Kyodo

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Former senior North Korean official Hwang Jang Yop, who defected to South Korea six years ago, is expected to visit the United States in late September, Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Katsuei Hirasawa said Wednesday.

“I have heard that (Hwang) will visit the U.S. in late September. It is possible for him to also come to Japan around that time,” Hirasawa said in a speech in Sendai. The lawmaker leads a parliamentarians’ group aiming to rescue Japanese abducted to North Korea.

Hwang, 80, a former secretary of the Workers Party of Korea, defected to South Korea in 1997. He earlier applied for a visa to visit the U.S. at the invitation of an American nongovernmental organization but was rebuffed because the South Korean government said it was impossible to guarantee his safety.

If the visit to Japan is realized, Hirasawa said he believes Hwang should be called to testify as an unsworn witness at the Diet and asked to give information on North Korea.

Japan has no diplomatic ties with North Korea. Tensions have intensified between the two countries after Pyongyang admitted last September it had abducted Japanese nationals. Adding to the tension is the North’s nuclear weapons threats and suspicions that its ships have conducted illicit trade and espionage activities in Japan.