North Korea abductees 'to stay in Japan'

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The Independent Online

Five visiting Japanese who were abducted in the Seventies and early Eighties by North Korea will stay indefinitely in their homeland, Tokyo said yesterday.

Five visiting Japanese who were abducted in the Seventies and early Eighties by North Korea will stay indefinitely in their homeland, Tokyo said yesterday.

The announcement follows demands from the abductees' families to keep the five in Japan and bring home their children, who are in North Korea.

Yasuo Fukuda, Chief Cabinet Secretary, said: "The five abductees will stay in Japan. We will strongly urge North Korea to ensure the safety of families there and their early return. We consider it indispensable and urgent that all family members be returned to Japan.''

The five had been expected to stay no more than two weeks when they arrived in Japan on 15 October.

Yuko Hamamoto, whose sister, Fukie, is one of the five, applauded the government's decision. "We should definitely not let them return," he said. "If they are told to return, we will kidnap them back."

The five are the only known survivors of 13 Japanese whom North Korea admits abducting. Both governments have said they are free to come and go as they wish. But relatives insist the returnees' children are being "held hostage" by North Korea and that the returnees are not voicing their true feelings for fear of retribution.

The families of the five have refused North Korea's offer to visit the country, saying the abductees' children must first be allowed to visit Japan.

A North Korean foreign ministry official said in a media interview that Pyongyang would allow the five Japanese to return home permanently with their children if they chose.

But the official balked at returning the children to Japan immediately, and criticised Japan for overreacting to the abduction issue. He said it was much less significant than Japan's often brutal colonial rule of Korea from 1910-1945.

Japanese and North Korean officials meet next week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for talks on establishing diplomatic relations and the abduction issue is expected to be high on the Japanese agenda.

Results of DNA tests released yesterday confirmed that another abductee's child, Kim Hea Kyong, 15, is living Pyongyang. The girl's mother, Megumi Yokota, was abducted in 1977, but is listed by North Korea among the eight abductees who have died.

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