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Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura denied Tuesday that a senior Foreign Ministry official who visited Pyongyang in November agreed not to disclose the fact that Japan had received what North Korea claimed were cremated remains of abductee Megumi Yokota.

Machimura, however, confirmed that North Korea had demanded that Japan not make the matter public.

On Monday, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Mitoji Yabunaka, who was then director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, signed a paper with the man claiming to be Yokota’s husband stating that the Japanese government would hand the remains over to Yokota’s parents without making the matter public.

“There were discussions on whether to disclose” the issue of the cremated remains to the public, Machimura told reporters. “But the Japanese side told the North that it would be made public if Yokota’s parents approved, and (the North Korean man) did not make objections.”

The story broke a month after Japan formally lodged a protest with Pyongyang over its “insincere behavior” regarding a reinvestigation into 10 missing people Tokyo believes were abducted to North Korea.

In November, North Korea handed over what it claimed were the cremated remains of Yokota, who the North says died in 1994 after being kidnapped to the country in 1977. But DNA testing came out negative, enraging Yokota’s parents and a large segment of the public.

North Korea has repeatedly criticized Japan via its state-run media organizations for “completely fabricating” the DNA test results and has demanded that Japan return the remains to North Korea.

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