Kin fear fate of N. Korea ab­ductees in jeop­ardy; Ja­panese fault U.S. pol­icy

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By David R. Sands

Rel­a­tives of Ja­panese na­tion­als kid­napped and held for decades by North Korea said April 29 they fear their cause could be tram­pled in the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s rush to make a deal with Py­ongyang over its nu­clear weapons pro­grams.

The­case­oftheJa­pane­seab­ductees has emerged as a stick­ing point in the six-party talks to end the North’s nu­clear pro­grams and has put new strains on the U.S.-Ja­panese al­liance.

Teru­aki Ma­sumoto, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Tokyo-based As­so­ci­a­tion of the Fam­i­lies of Vic­tims Kid­napped by North Korea, said in an in­ter­view dur­ing a Wash­ing­ton visit that ig­nor­ing the hostage is­sue could ul­ti­mately un­der­mine the ef­fort to force North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to give up his nu­clear pro­grams.

“If we ig­nore the hu­man rights is­sues, it will not be good for Ja­pan, not good for the United States and not good for the ne­go­ti­a­tions as a whole,” he said. “Many, many peo­ple in Ja­pan would feel be­trayed.”

Mr. Ma­sumoto’s sis­ter, Ru­miko, was 24 when she was kid­napped by North Korean agents from a beach in south­ern Ja­pan in Au­gust 1978. She and other Ja­panese cit­i­zens were taken in the 1970s and 1980s, ap­par­ently to pro­vide lan­guage and cul­tural train­ing for North Korean spies.

Five of the ab­ductees were sub­se­quently al­lowed to re­turn home, but the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment main­tains that at least a dozen more of its cit­i­zens have not been ac­counted for. Private hu­man rights groups say the num­ber of ab­ductees may be much higher. In Ms. Ma­sumoto’s case, North Korea said both she and her Ja­panese hus­band died more than two decades ago, but the regime has pro­duced no proof of their deaths.

Christo­pher Hill, the State De­part­ment’s point man in the six-party talks, met April 29 with his South Korean coun­ter­part, Kim Sook, to dis­cuss the sta­tus of the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The North is in the process of dis­man­tling a key nu­clear re­ac­tor site in re­turn for promised en­ergy aid and the long-term prospect of nor­mal re­la­tions with its neigh­bors and the United States.

But the ne­go­ti­a­tions have been rocked in re­cent days by rev­e­la­tions of a pos­si­ble North Korean link to Syria’s covert nu­clear pro­gram, and U.S. crit­ics of the talks say the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion has made too many con­ces­sions to Py­ongyang just to keep the talks alive.

The ab­ductee is­sue is a highly emo­tive one in Ja­pan. The gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Ya­suo Fukuda on April 11 ex­tended for an­other six months harsh eco­nomic sanc­tions on North Korea largely be­cause of the stale­mate over the ab­ductee is­sue.

The del­e­ga­tion of Ja­panese ad­vo­cates for the ab­ductees said they were in Wash­ing­ton last week to meet with law­mak­ers and mem­bers of the ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing of­fi­cials in the of­fice of Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney.

But Osamu Eya, chief of a Ja­panese in­ves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee on the ab­ductees, said the United States now ap­pears set to con­sider drop­ping North Korea from the of­fi­cial list of ter­ror­ist states in ex­change for progress solely on the nu­clear is­sue.

“Delist­ing” North Korea as a ter­ror­ist state could al­low Py­ongyang to tap the World Bank and other in­ter­na­tional lend­ing in­sti­tu­tions and shrug off Ja­panese pres­sure to re­solve the ab­ductees is­sue.

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