• Kyodo


Shintaro Ishihara, leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), said he believes Megumi Yokota and other Japanese abducted by North Korea are dead and called for revising the pacifist Constitution to allow Japan to threaten to wage war against such countries.

“Circumstantial evidence suggests that Ms. Megumi Yokota and more than 200 other Japanese nationals have been abducted and killed,” Ishihara said while campaigning Monday in Tokyo for Sunday’s election.

He called for revising the pacifist Constitution, particularly war-renouncing Article 9.

“Our compatriots were abandoned because of Article 9. Without it, Japan could have taken them back by threatening to wage a war against (the North) and invade” the country, the former Tokyo governor said.

Shigeo Iizuka, head of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, declined to comment on Ishihara’s remarks, saying he had not heard them directly and didn’t know whether the reported comments were credible.

Yokota was abducted by North Korean agents from the coastal city of Niigata in 1977 when she was 13. Ishihara’s comments are expected to draw fire from relatives of the abductees who believe the victims are still alive.

Pyongyang admitted in 2002 that North Korean agents abducted or lured 13 Japanese to the communist country in the 1970s and 1980s, and said eight of them, including Yokota, were dead. The five others were allowed to return to Japan later that year.

The government recognizes 17 Japanese nationals, including the 13 disclosed by the North, as abductees and is demanding that Pyongyang reopen its investigation into the whereabouts of the missing, including those it insists have died.

Early voting rate down

In the first five days of early voting for Sunday’s general election, 2,549,501 voters as of Monday had cast their ballots for single-seat districts, down 17 percent from the corresponding period in the 2009 race, according to an interim report by the internal affairs ministry.

The number of early voters accounted for 2.44 percent of all those eligible and fell short of 3,055,634 in the 2009 general election. An internal affairs ministry official said poor weather conditions in some regions may have affected turnout.

This election is the third since the early voting system was introduced for people unable to visit polling stations on the day of the election because of work or other commitments.

In 2009, 13.98 million early votes were cast. Early voting will be accepted through Saturday.

By prefecture, only Akita, at 14 percent, logged an increase in the 2009 early voting period compared with the first election in which the system was used, while Toyama saw the largest decline at 36 percent, according to the ministry report.

The government does not require prefectural election boards to report the number of early voters for the proportional representation segment of the election.

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