• Kyodo

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North Korea’s special committee reinvestigating Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese nationals decades ago held a meeting last month with Red Army Faction fugitives who hijacked a Japan Airlines airplane in 1970 and defected to the North, one of the former members said Tuesday.

Takahiro Konishi, who led the hijackers and is on an international wanted list, told Kyodo News in a telephone interview that the committee requested that he, three other members and two of their wives attend a meeting in Pyongyang in mid-November at which they were asked whether they were involved in the abductions.

Of the six, three are wanted internationally on suspicion of involvement in the abduction of three Japanese in Europe.

Konishi, 70, said the six visited an office in Pyongyang on Nov. 20. Asked by the North Korean committee officials about the abductions, the members maintained their position that they were not involved.

Konishi said he believes the North Korean officials contacted them to lay the groundwork for the reinvestigation. “I am willing to be interviewed to help resolve the abduction issue,” he said.

Of the nine hijackers, five have died.

A senior Japanese police officer believes North Korea’s move to talk to the former Red Army Faction hijackers was a “way to demonstrate to Japan its sincerity in the investigation for formality’s sake” since North Korea has stuck to its position that the hijackers were not involved in the abductions.

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