Pyongyang told Tokyo in May 2010 that it would allow Japanese abductee Megumi Yokota’s daughter, Kim Eun Gyong, to leave North Korea as long as it wasn’t to Japan, a source said Tuesday.
Pyongyang’s move was apparently aimed at facilitating the first meeting between Kim and her grandparents, Shigeru and Sakie Yokota, the source said.
The Yokotas have long been at the forefront of efforts to repatriate Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents.
Political analysts said North Korea wants to use the Kim Eun Gyong card to break the impasse over the abduction issue. The kidnappings by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s are a key stumbling block preventing the establishment of normal bilateral relations.
Senior officials in the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, including Kim Yong Il, secretary of the Central Committee and director of the party’s International Department, relayed approval of the idea to Yoshihiro Kawakami, an Upper House lawmaker from Japan who visited North Korea in May 2010.
Kawakami, when he visited North Korea in October 2009, heard a similar remark from Kim Tae Jong, then chairman of the Korea-Japan Amity and Friendship Association, who also served in the ruling party’s International Department. Kim Tae Jong had said that Kim Eun Gyong could be brought anywhere outside North Korea so long as it was not Japan.
Kim Eun Gyong also appeared to have been discussed during talks between Kim Yong Il, who deals with North Korea’s diplomacy, and Isao Iijima, an adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on May 15 when Iijima made an unexpected visit to Pyongyang for talks with senior officials, the source said.
Kim, also known as Kim Hye Gyong, was born to Megumi Yokota and Kim Young Nam, a South Korean man abducted to North Korea. Yokota was abducted to North Korea in 1977 at age 13 and has become a symbolic victim of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals.
Shigeru and Sakie Yokota, have yet to meet their granddaughter. Despite their wish to meet her, they have refrained from doing so amid strong concern such a meeting could be used by Pyongyang for its own ends.
Given the tricky political situation, the Japanese government has yet to decide whether a meeting between the couple and their granddaughter would be a good idea.
Talks between Kawakami, a member of the Democratic Party of Japan, and Kim Yong Il were approved by then-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, the source said.
Negotiations were under way for Hatoyama to send a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, but this was rejected by the Foreign Ministry, the source said.
Instead, Kawakami read aloud during their meeting a statement from Hatoyama in which the prime minister said he was ready to visit North Korea and that his trip would be a historic opportunity to resolve the abduction issue in a substantive way.
North Korean officials also sounded out Japan about a new panel to reinvestigate the abduction issue on condition that some of Japan’s economic sanctions against North Korea were eased, the source said.
North Korea admitted in 2002 to committing several abductions and said Megumi Yokota committed suicide in 1994.
In 2004, they handed over to Japan cremated remains that they claimed were her’s. DNA tests conducted in Japan proved this to be untrue. The government has since demanded that North Korea reinvestigate this and other abduction cases.
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