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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 15:16 GMT
NKorea kidnap victim seeks family reunion
Hitomi Soga (left) with Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, 27 November 2002
Hitomi Soga (left) was abducted in 1978
A woman abducted by North Korea who returned to Japan recently has pleaded with a top official to let the American husband she left behind join her without fear of arrest.

Japanese kidnap victim Fukie Hamamoto hugs a relative on her return to Japan, October 2002
The public is gripped by the kidnap saga
Japan has been pressing the US to pardon Hitomi Soga's husband, former soldier Charles Robert Jenkins, who is accused of defecting to North Korea in 1965.

Washington has not made a decision about Mr Jenkins, but US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday said there was a "legal case" against him.

Japan's Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe on Wednesday said talks with the US were at a "delicate" stage, but he refused to elaborate.

Hitomi Soga, who travelled to Tokyo from her hometown to meet Mr Abe, is one of five Japanese nationals who returned home last month - two decades after North Korea kidnapped them to help train its spies in Japanese customs.

Re-settlement preparations

The abductees were originally due to make a short visit to Japan, but Japan is now planning for them to remain indefinitely.

Shuichi Ichikawa is said to have died in North Korea (AFP photo)
Japan's missing
  • Taken in the 1970s and 1980s
  • Eight Japanese said to be dead
  • Five still alive in North Korea
  • The survivors have children in N Korea
  • Kim Jong-il says he has punished the culprits
    See also:

  • Parliament is on Thursday due to consider a bill that would provide the five with a monthly allowance, paving the way for them to possibly re-settle in Japan.

    None of the abductees have said they definitely want to stay for good. They want their children to join them in Japan before making a decision.

    The other kidnap victims are two married couples, but Hitomi Soga's case is more complicated because her husband faces arrest and extradition to the US if he steps foot on Japanese soil.

    Earlier this month, Mr Jenkins and the couple's two teenage daughters pleaded in a Japanese magazine interview for Hitomi Soga to return to North Korea.

    Japan and North Korea have been locked in a diplomatic stand-off since North Korea last month admitted to the kidnaps, reversing years of denials.

    North Korea hoped its apology would lead to the two sides normalising diplomatic relations, but there has been a huge public outcry in Japan.

    The Japanese public does not accept North Korea's explanation that eight other kidnap victims all died of natural causes.

    The situation has been further complicated since North Korea's reported admission that it has developed nuclear weapons.

    Nuclear tensions

    Inside North Korea

    Divided peninsula

    See also:

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