Thu, Dec 09, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Pyongyang hands over false remains

AP , TOKYO

Tests show human remains that North Korea claims belonged to a Japanese citizen abducted decades ago by communist agents belong to someone else, the Japanese government said yesterday.

Pyongyang had said the remains belonged to Megumi Yokota, who was abducted in 1977. North Korea maintains that she died in 1994, but Japan doubts the account.

North Korea has admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train them in Japanese language and culture. The regime released five in 2002 but has said the eight others -- including Yokota -- died, a claim many Japanese don't believe.

Widespread dissatisfaction in Japan with the North Korean investigation into the fate of the abductees has led to increasing calls for sanctions against the communist regime.

Japanese officials immediately criticized Pyongyang for the apparent deception -- the second time North Korea has turned over false remains of a missing Japanese abduction victim.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiro-yuki Hosoda said Tokyo would protest, adding that the failure to clear up the Yokota case could block further food shipments to the impoverished country.

"We will immediately lodge a protest and do our best to seek the truth," Hosoda said. "It has become a major obstacle for Japan-North Korea relations."

The remains were turned over to Japanese negotiators in Pyongyang on Nov. 15. The ashes were brought back to Japan, where scientists conducted DNA and other tests to determine their identity.

The findings deepened the mystery concerning Yokota's fate.

The girl was kidnapped in 1977 as a 13-year-old off the Sea of Japan coast and vanished behind North Korea's wall of secrecy. North Korea claims she committed suicide in a hospital.

A spokesman for Niigata Prefectural police, which covers the area where Yokota was kidnapped, said forensic tests showed the remains belonged to two unidentified people.

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