Japan Seeks New Policy for Abduction Talks with North Korea
Thursday, September 30, 2004 Posted: 02:19 PM JST
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has told diplomats this week to come up with new ideas for the abduction talks with North Korea. Sunday Japan and North Korea ended two days of talks without any result.
During these talks Pyongyang admitted to mistakes in its initial investigation of 10 Japanese who are believed to have been abducted by North Korean agents, but did not produce any new information about their whereabouts. It still insists that eight Japanese it admitted to abducting had died and two others had never entered the country.
North Korea gave its original version of the fates of the abductees during the historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Pyongyang in September 2002. Their version created more questions than answers and North Korea agreed to reinvestigate during Kim and Koizumi's second summit on May 22 of this year.
North Korea now says that Megumi Yokota was hospitalized until June of 1993. Earlier it had produced a death certificate that showed she died in March of the same year. Yokota was abducted in 1977 when she was only 13 years old. North Korea's new information came after one of the returned abductees said he had seen Megumi alive after the date that North Korea claimed she died. North Korea also changed information related to Keiko Arimoto and Toru Ishioka, two other abductees the country claims are dead. It gave no information about other missing abductees.
Family members, diplomats and the Prime Minister now appear to be loosing their patience over the talks. According to sources with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan may demand that Japanese investigators will participate in the talks. Although Koizumi has told reporters he will continue the talks without resorting to economic sanctions, rumors began to circulate this week that Japan may also start to play hardball. Government officials said Wednesday that Japan may not deliver 125,000 tons of food aid pledged to North Korea. The food aid is part of 250,000 tons of aid promised by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during their May 22 summit in Pyongyang. Beginning in October 125,000 tons of food and $7 million worth of medical supplies will be sent to North Korea. The second batch was expected to be sent later, but this has now been called into question.
In a related development abduction key advisor Kyoko Nakayama tendered her resignation Wednesday. Nakayama told reporters she had accomplished what she set out to do, to win back the trust in the government among relatives of the abductees. The government does not intend to appoint a replacement. Some observers however believe she may have been dissatisfied with the course Koizumi is taking after appointing a new cabinet earlier this week. She has called the Foreign Ministry "weak-kneed" towards North Korea and was furious about a secret meeting conducted by unofficial Japanese delegates and North Korean officials in China in April.
Relatives of missing abductees and the five repatriated abductees were deeply shocked according to a Kyodo News report. "Although she was on the government side, she always acted and spoke from the standpoint of the victims and the families," said Toru Hasuike, the older brother of repatriated abductee Kaoru Hasuike.
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