Pyongyang asked Tokyo during bilateral talks in February to hold talks with Japanese skyjackers living in North Korea as demanded by the fugitives as a condition for agreeing to go home, sources said Tuesday.

The remaining Japanese Red Army Faction fugitives who hijacked a Japan Airlines plane to North Korea in 1970 have been seeking talks with Tokyo in order to have the opportunity to deny they were involved, as alleged, in the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea.

North Korea has previously asked Japan to accept the hijackers’ request.

Japan has so far refused, but the repeated call by Pyongyang during the February talks in Beijing could lead to new developments in the case surrounding the hijackers, the sources said.

Meeting with Japanese delegates in Beijing in February, North Korea quoted the hijackers as saying they are ready to return to Japan if Tokyo agrees to hold talks with them in advance and they asked Japan to accept the request, the sources said.

Tokyo, however, told the Pyongyang delegation there is no room for negotiations with the hijackers, noting Japan has been seeking their unconditional handover as they are on Interpol’s wanted list for the JAL hijacking and for alleged involvement in the abductions.

Of the nine former Red Army Faction members who hijacked the JAL jet, four are still in North Korea. Others have since died or have been arrested.

Among the four, Japan has requested the handover of Kimihiro Uomoto due to his alleged role in Pyongyang’s abduction of Keiko Arimoto.

The wives of two other hijackers are also suspected of being involved in the abduction of Kaoru Matsuki, a Japanese citizen who disappeared in 1980 when he was studying in Europe.

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