Saturday, December 25, 2004

Japan tougher tone on North Korea

Japan threatened retaliation against North Korea such as
cutting off economic ties unless the communist state
returned Japanese people it has kidnapped or gave a
"sincere response" on their fate.

Japan said it would send a "strong protest" to North
Korea accusing it of handing over false evidence to
prove the deaths of eight Japanese people it abducted
during the Cold War.

"We will have to take a serious response this time if
North Korea does not sincerely respond," said Chief
Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, the Japanese
government spokesman.

"We strongly demand that North Korea immediately send
home the survivors. The Japanese government demands the
sincere response of North Korea."

A recent poll found that nearly two-thirds of Japanese
people want economic sanctions against North Korea,
despite warnings by the communist state that it would
consider the move an act of war.

Japan has already suspended food aid to North Korea.

Koizumi has previously indicated that sanctions -- which
could take the form of banning remittances by North
Koreans in Japan or barring Pyongyang's ships from
docking at Japanese ports -- would be a last resort.

In a sign that he still favors a cautious approach,
Koizumi declined to set a deadline for North Korea to
respond to the protest, which will be submitted through
diplomats in Beijing.

"We are not thinking about it at present," Koizumi said
of imposing a deadline.

Hosoda, asked whether Japan was presenting North Korea
with an ultimatum, said: "I don't see it that way."

The United States, South Korea (news - web sites) and
China have all warned Japan to be careful with North
Korea amid moves to bring the cash-strapped but heavily
armed country back into six-nation talks on ending its
nuclear program.

In line with world concerns, North Korea threatened to
boycott the nuclear talks unless Japan is excluded from
the negotiating table.

"It has become difficult for (the North) to sit down
with Japan at the six-way talks as Japan acts without
faith and morality," the North's Central Television
Broadcasting Station said late Thursday, in a report
monitored by South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

North Korea, which fired a missile over Japan in 1998,
has admitted kidnapping 13 Japanese people to train the
regime's spies in Japanese language and culture.

North Korea has released five and, to Japan's
skepticism, says eight others are dead.

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.

When Japan said the ashes' DNA did not match Yokota's,
North Korea accused Tokyo of "cooking up" evidence and
asked for the remains back, saying the Japanese woman's
North Korean husband wanted them.

Yokota's father Shigeru Yokota called Friday for a
tougher approach by the government.

"We want the government to set an early deadline for
North Korea's response," he told reporters.

Kayoko Arimoto, whose daughter Keiko Arimoto was
kidnapped in 1983 by North Korean agents in Copenhagen,
said North Korea's false evidence was "so ridiculous I
can't find words to express it."

"None of the negotiations and discussions have resulted
in any progress," she said.

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