Monday, May 2, 2005

Representatives of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea have appealed to the Bush administration to support sanctions on Pyongyang until the communist regime provides a full accounting of the missing Japanese.

Teruaki Masumoto, head of an association of family members whose relatives were taken to North Korea, said he thinks Pyongyang is lying by claiming that his sister Rumiko died in 1981.

Rumiko Masumoto was 24 when she was abducted by North Korean agents in 1978. Pyongyang said the abductees were forced to teach Japanese to North Korean intelligence officers.

Mr. Masumoto, of the Association of Family Members Kidnapped by North Korea, said North Korea’s government provided fraudulent documents indicating his sister had died of a heart attack.

“We stand on the basic premise that our families are alive in North Korea at this time,” Mr. Masumoto said in an interview at the Pentagon after meeting with defense officials on the issue.

Yoichi Shimada, a representative of a second group, the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, said Miss Masumoto trained North Korean intelligence agents and if released could identify Pyongyang’s agents operating in Japan and elsewhere.

“If she is repatriated, the Japanese police could show her photos of spies she trained. That is why North Korea is refusing to release her,” he said.

Mr. Shimada said the solution to the issue is ?regime change? in North Korea and that Japanese sanctions should be imposed on Pyongyang as a way to facilitate the elimination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

“My position is basically regime change is the only way to resolve this abduction issue and nuclear issue and missile issue, for that matter,” he said. “We think we have to do something which can shake up the leadership corps in North Korea. More bluntly, we would like to raise the possibility of the assassination of Kim Jong-il.”

The North Korean leader first disclosed in 2002 that the intelligence service abducted 15 Japanese and claimed five were alive and 10 had died. Japanese officials say the number of people who were abducted or who were lured to North Korea and then held is more than 100.

The issue has turned public opinion in Japan against North Korea.

Economic sanctions imposed by Japan on North Korea would send a message to military and civilian officials close to the reclusive North Korean leader. The message of sanctions is “eliminate him, more bluntly, assassinate him, then you can expect the lifting of sanctions but better relations with Japan,” Mr. Shimada said.

Both men were visiting Washington as part of North Korean Freedom Week, which brought together various human rights groups last week. They met with U.S. government officials at the Pentagon, State Department and White House to urge the Bush administration to support Japanese sanctions against North Korea.

“The families in Japan strongly believe that it was the statements the current Bush administration has made toward North Korea, starting off with the axis of evil and including them in the rogue state status that have been very helpful,” Mr. Masumoto said.

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