• Kyodo

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Japan and North Korea have begun off-the-record talks on possibly permitting the parents of Megumi Yokota, whom North Korea abducted in 1977 at age 13 and now claims is dead, to visit Pyongyang, a government source said Thursday in Tokyo.

One of the main purposes of such a trip would be to allow Shigeru and Sakie Yokota to meet their 25-year-old granddaughter, Kim Eun Gyong, also known as Hye Gyong, who was born to their daughter and Kim Young Nam, a South Korean also abducted to North Korea, the source said.

However, Tokyo is waiting to see whether there is any progress in the abduction issue at talks with Pyongyang that started Thursday before moving forward with the Yokotas’ possible visit, making it highly uncertain whether it will actually take place, according to the source.

Meanwhile, the government denied such a move is in the works. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said: “I think it is a factual error. There is no such plan.”

Sakie Yokota told reporters: “I have not heard anything (about it) so I am surprised. We have not made such a request either.”

Pyongyang in 2002 admitted its agents had abducted 13 Japanese nationals, including Yokota, in the 1970s and 1980s. Five of the abductees were repatriated later that year, but the North maintains that Yokota and the seven other victims have died. Tokyo, however, continues to officially list 17 Japanese as having been snatched by North Korea during this period.

Yokota was abducted by North Korean agents from Niigata on Nov. 15, 1977. Pyongyang claims she committed suicide in 1994 while being treated for depression, but Yokota’s family and Tokyo vigorously dispute this assertion. DNA tests conducted in Japan on the allegedly cremated remains of Yokota that were supplied by North Korea in 2004 showed they were not hers.

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