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Police found a bomb early Wednesday at the Tokyo home of Deputy Foreign Minister Hitoshi Tanaka, the key official for negotiations and policymaking on North Korea, after being alerted by news organizations that received suspicious calls, police officials said.

They found the device — a cylindrical steel object containing a small heater and a pressured gas cylinder connected by lead wires to a small box with batteries and a timer — in the ground floor carport of Tanaka’s home in Meguro Ward.

The timer was ticking, police said.

The device was accompanied by an envelope addressed to “Hitoshi Tanaka, traitor” and identifying the sender as “Kenkoku Giyugun Kokuzoku Seibatsutai,” which roughly translates into the “nation-building volunteers corps to conquer traitors.”

The act is believed to have been perpetrated by ultra-rightists.

A typed letter said Tanaka was accommodating an enemy country and that this is unacceptable.

The police are investigating the object, which is about 30 cm long with a diameter of around 10 cm.

They are also looking for possible links with a recent string of incidents attacking facilities related to the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun).

The police were alerted after the Asahi Shimbun received a telephone call at around 1:20 a.m. from someone claiming to be a member of “Kokuzoku Seibatsutai.”

The caller said the group had planted a bomb at Tanaka’s home and mailed bullets to the office of lawmaker Hiromu Nonaka, former secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, police said. The Sankei Shimbun received a similar call at around 1:45 a.m.

Police are investigating whether any bullets have been sent to Nonaka’s office.

A staff member at the office said no bullets have been received.

Police said Tanaka and his family were evacuated while officers handled the device.

The series of incidents against Korean-related facilities started last November when bullets and threatening letters from groups with a slightly different name were mailed to Chongryun’s Tokyo headquarters and the Social Democratic Party.

Tanaka is believed to have personal negotiation contacts with North Korea and, as chief of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, played a crucial role in bringing about Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s landmark visit to Pyongyang last September for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Tanaka ‘deserved’ it

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Wednesday that Deputy Foreign Minister Hitoshi Tanaka deserved to be threatened by the bomb discovered at his home earlier in the day because his attitude toward North Korea is too soft.

“A bomb was planted there. I think it was deserved,” the hawkish governor said in a speech in Nagoya. Tanaka “is at North Korea’s beck and call,” he said, criticizing the secretive way in which the bureaucrat arranged for a summit between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in September last year.

Ishihara made the remarks in a speech while stumping for Shizuka Kamei, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker who is running in the Sept. 20 race for the party presidency.

Police said they found a suspected bomb inside the carport of Tanaka’s home in Tokyo early Wednesday. No one was injured.

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