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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 09:48 GMT
Progress on Japanese abductees
Megumi Yokota
North Korea says kidnap victim Megumi Yokota committed suicide
Japanese officials have met the alleged husband of a Japanese national kidnapped by North Korea.

North Korea says the Japanese national, Megumi Yokata, committed suicide, but Tokyo asked to meet her husband because of doubts she is dead.

In a sign that negotiators may be making progress on the issue of kidnapped Japanese, talks between the two side have been extended.

North Korea admitted to some abductions two years ago, but suspicions remain.

"This afternoon, the Japanese delegation met with the man said to be Ms Yokota's spouse, Kim Chol-jun," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told reporters in Tokyo.

Mr Hosoda also said the delegation visited the doctor who reportedly handled her treatment.

JAPAN'S MISSING
Hitomi Soga during a press conference by the five former Japanese abductees at a Tokyo hotel Saturday, May 22, 2004
Snatched in the '70s and '80s
Used as cultural trainers for N Korean spies
Five allowed home in 2002
Five children now freed from N Korea
Eight said to be dead, others missing

Megumi Yokota was kidnapped from Japan by North Korean spies in 1977 when she was just 13, on her way home from badminton practice.

When North Korea admitted in 2002 that its agents had abducted several Japanese nationals, it said that Ms Yokota had killed herself in a hospital in 1993 while being treated for depression.

Before she allegedly died, she married a North Korean man and DNA tests have confirmed she had a daughter - Kim Hye-gyong - who is still living in North Korea.

Japanese negotiators are also probing some of the other cases of missing nationals.

North Korea admits having kidnapped 13 people in all, who were used to train Korean spies. Five have returned to Japan, and Pyongyang says the rest have died.

But Tokyo is sceptical, and wants proof the others are dead. It also wants information on another two people whom North Korea says never entered the country.

Nuclear issue

Senior members of Japan's ruling party are calling for economic sanctions if this round of talks, which began on Wednesday, is unfruitful.

The abduction is a major stumbling block to the establishment of diplomatic ties, which would win Pyongyang substantial economic aid from Japan.

The Japanese delegates have also discussed the possibility of North Korea restarting multinational talks on its nuclear weapons programme.

The last round of talks scheduled for September never took place and it was widely speculated that Pyongyang was waiting to see who won the US elections.

But North Korea has blamed the Bush administration's "hostile policy" for the nuclear stand-off.

Japanese delegates said on Thursday that Pyongyang was "not positive" on restarting the talks soon.


SEE ALSO:
Japan upset over N Korea missing
12 Aug 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Heartbreak over Japan's missing
11 Aug 04 |  Asia-Pacific


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