The government will not transfer Akitaka Saiki, the diplomat heading Japan’s working-level delegation discussing North Korea’s nuclear threat and abductions, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Monday.

There have been reports in the media Saiki will be transferred to the Japanese Embassy in Washington. He is a key negotiator in the talks with North Korea and is known as a hardliner toward Pyongyang.

The media reports prompted relatives of Japanese abducted to North Korean to fear that the government may be leaning toward appeasing the reclusive state.

But at his daily news conference Monday, Hosoda denied that Saiki will become a minister at the embassy in Washington by the end of this year.

“He has long engaged in these talks, which are entering important phases,” Hosoda said. “We’d like him to keep his job in the negotiations.”

Saiki’s official title is deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.

A senior Foreign Ministry official likewise denied that Saiki was being transferred.

Hosoda, however, did not rule out that Saiki may be transferred sometime in the future, saying the Cabinet Secretariat usually does not interfere in personnel affairs lower than bureau-chief level at a ministry.

The reports of Saiki’s possible transfer, coming as they did in the wake of the resignation last week of Kyoko Nakayama — also known as a hardliner toward North Korea — as Cabinet Secretariat adviser, have sent jitters among relatives of the abductees.

Japan and North Korea held working-level talks on the abduction issue late last month, but the negotiations bore no fruit because the North Koreans maintained that their investigation into the fate of 10 missing Japanese was still unfinished.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.