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Japan

North Korea ‘has detained a Japanese tourist visiting the country’

The Kyodo news agency of Japan reported that the man, in his 30s, was detained in the western port town of Nampo while on a group tour organised by a foreign agency

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 August, 2018, 6:07am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 August, 2018, 6:07am

North Korea has detained a Japanese tourist visiting the country, possibly on spying charges, Japanese media reported Saturday, complicating efforts to seek rapprochement between the two countries.

US President Donald Trump has said Japan is among the Asian countries he expects to provide economic aid to North Korea should it give up its nuclear weapons.

But Japan is also determined to resolve the issue of its citizens who were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.

Now, there is another man to worry about.

The Kyodo news agency reported that the man, in his 30s, was detained in the western port town of Nampo while on a group tour organised by a foreign agency.

Broadcaster NTV said the man describes himself as a “video creator” and might have been seized while trying to film a military facility in North Korea’s northwestern region.

TBS Television said he had visited North Korea several times in the past, and the Kyodo news agency and the Asahi newspaper said he could face spying allegations, citing official sources.

“North Korea may use the man it has held as a bargaining chip for negotiations with Japan,” a government official told Kyodo.

Japan has found itself somewhat on the sidelines since Trump met North Korea leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been hoping to arrange his own summit with Kim.

Japan, land of the (red hot and) rising sun

But the abduction issue is a sensitive one in Japan and one that Abe has championed in the past, putting pressure on him to make progress if there was a summit. No date for him to meet Kim has yet been set.

Japan says at least 17 of its citizens were abducted by North Korean agents from beaches and coastal areas in the late 1970s and early 1980s, some to teach spies about Japanese language and culture, or simply to obtain their identities.

After decades of denial, North Korea finally admitted in 2002 to having kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens, allowing five to return home and claiming the other eight were dead. It now says the case is closed, something Japan and relatives of the disappeared do not accept.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho would not respond to reporters’ questions about the matter when he arrived at Beijing international airport Saturday following a trip to Singapore and Iran.

Additional reporting by Associated Press