• Kyodo

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Four Japanese living in North Korea after hijacking a plane and landing there in 1970 have written a letter to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi asking to talk to officials about returning to Japan, a supporter said Tuesday.

The letter, dated Monday, from Takahiro Konishi, Shiro Akagi, Moriaki Wakabayashi and Kimihiro Uomoto says the four are ready to return even if it means facing arrest and a trial, according to the supporter, who recently traveled to Pyongyang.

They call for talks with government officials, saying they would like to “dispel misunderstanding and distrust” that they are North Korean “agents of terrorism,” according to the supporter.

The government, in bilateral working-level talks that began in August, has called on North Korea to hand over the four unconditionally.

The group has sent letters to prime ministers in the past, including Yasuhiro Nakasone, but this is the first to Koizumi. Japan has maintained that it has no intention of negotiating with them.

The supporter returned to Japan via Beijing later Tuesday accompanying Kyoko Tanaka, the wife of hijacker Yoshimi Tanaka, who has already returned. He received a 12-year prison term in 2003.

Japanese police arrested his wife at Narita International Airport for allegedly violating the Passport Law.

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