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 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 08:42 GMT
Kidnapped Japanese 'to stay in Japan'
Kidnap victim Hitomi Soga
All five have left families in North Korea
Five Japanese nationals visiting their homeland for the first time since they were kidnapped by North Korea in 1978 have said they want to stay in Japan.

They asked Tokyo to continue negotiations with Pyongyang to let their families leave North Korea and join them.

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:

  • The fate of the five has become a bargaining chip in a diplomatic stand-off between the two countries.

    Until Thursday, the five had been extremely cautious in their public statements, anxious not to put their families at risk.

    They had also taken care to wear pin badges of North Korea's mercurial leader, Kim Jong-il.

    But in a sign of their break with Stalinist North Korea, they were photographed on Thursday without the pin badges.

    North Korea has so far refused to allow the kidnap victims' families to visit Japan, arguing that Tokyo broke its promise that it would only keep the kidnap victims for one or two weeks.

    The five - Yasushi and Fukie Chimura, 47, Kaoru and Yukiko Hasuike, 45 and 46, and Hitomi Soga, 43 - have been in Japan since 15 October.

    Silence broken

    In a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the kidnap victims said they had reached their decision after discussing the issue in private on Wednesday.

    "We reaffirmed our decision to remain in Japan and wait to be reunited with our families," the letter said.

    "But we are very disappointed that it has not been realised after two months have passed," it continued.

    Up until now, the kidnap victims have been non-commital in their public statements, although some have been quoted as saying they were anxious as to how their children, all born in North Korea and now in their teens and 20s, would adapt if they came to Japan.

    Another complicating issue is that of Ms Soga's American husband, Charles Jenkins.

    He is alleged to be a US army deserter and could face arrest and extradition to the United Sates if he left North Korea to join his wife.

    Japanese kidnap victim Fukie Hamamoto hugs a relative on her return to Japan, October 2002
    The victims came to Japan in October
    Last month, Mr Jenkins and the couple's two teenage daughters pleaded in a Japanese magazine interview for Ms Soga to return to North Korea.

    Tokyo and Pyongyang have been locked in a diplomatic stand-off since North Korea admitted in October 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.

    Tokyo has since said that it will not continue normalisation talks with North Korea until the issue of the kidnap victims' families is resolved.

    Nuclear tensions

    Inside North Korea

    Divided peninsula

    See also:

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