Sat, Jan 01, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Japan's allegations anger North Korea

SABER RATTLING The isolated regime renewed war threats after Japan claimed its citizens kidnapped in 1977 were alive and still detained


North Korea threatened yesterday to end dialogue with Japan and issued a fresh warning of war in a furious response to Tokyo's claims that the communist state lied in a row about kidnappings.

Japan on Dec. 25 handed to North Korean diplomats in Beijing a report concluding that Pyongyang presented false evidence including human remains in a bid to prove that eight Japanese people it abducted were dead.

A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman, quoted by the regime's official Korean Central News Agency, said the probe findings were "peppered with words totally negating the sincere efforts" of Pyongyang.

"Now that it has become clear that the Japanese government has openly joined the ultra-right forces in their moves against the DPRK [North Korea], it no longer feels that any DPRK-Japan inter-governmental contact is meaningful," KCNA said.

"As we have already clarified, we are fully prepared to react to Japan's every provocation with physical strength," it said in Pyongyang's first official reaction to the Japanese findings.

North Korea has admitted kidnapping 13 Japanese people up to the 1980s to train the regime's spies in Japanese language and culture.

It released five of them in 2002, leading Japan to offer aid, but insists that eight others are dead.

Japan believes they are alive and likely being kept under wraps because they know state secrets. It has already cut off food aid and threatened to snap all economic links to the North -- a move Pyongyang has warned it would consider an act of war.

The most famous victim is Megumi Yokota, who was a 13-year-old girl returning home from school when she was whisked away in 1977.

North Korea said Yokota killed herself out of depression and last month gave a visiting Japanese delegation human remains purported to prove it, along with evidence said to show seven other kidnap victims were dead.

Tokyo has said DNA tests in Japan proved the remains belonged to somebody else.

It issued a "strong protest" to Pyongyang and said that unless North Korea returned the abduction victims or gave a "sincere" account of their fate, Japan would be forced to give a "serious response."

But Japan stopped short of spelling out what measures it would take or setting a deadline for North Korea's response, amid calls from the US, South Korea and China to be cautious with Pyongyang.

North Korea fired a missile over Japan in 1998 and is refusing to return to talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons ambitions.

A newspaper poll Tuesday found that 51 percent of Japanese thought Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was too soft on Pyongyang.

But the Pyongyang spokesman described the Japanese protest as threatening.

He said Japan had "fabricated" the test results and demanded Tokyo return "remains" of Yokota and apologize.

The spokesman was quoted as saying North Korea "can neither accept nor admit the results and resolutely rejects them as the government reacts to our good faith with an immoral attitude."

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