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North Korea turns tables in Japan abduction dispute

Turning the tables on Tokyo, North Korea has called on Japan to investigate the case of one of its nationals who went missing in 1991 while working in Russia, saying it presumed Japan had abducted him.

The demand was reported in Pyongyang's official media ahead of Monday's resumption of negotiations in Beijing by envoys from the two Koreas, Japan, the United States, China and Russia on ending the communist country's nuclear arms programs.

Japan is expected to demand at the talks that North Korea also resolve the issue of Japanese nationals kidnapped by Pyongyang's agents in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies.

In a report carried on Saturday, KCNA news agency said a man named Kim Thae-yong went missing in 1991 while teaching Korean in Sakhalin, Russia, but that the country's education commission received a letter from him in 1992 saying he was in Japan's northern island of Hokkaido.

Kim had written that he was taken there and was writing a language teaching program while being treated for illness.

The North Korean Red Cross Society asked its Japanese counterpart to look into the matter in May, but received a reply on December 7 saying it failed to find his whereabouts, KCNA said.

"The insincere approach taken by Japan toward the issue of probing the case is intolerable, both from the elementary humanitarian point of view and the standpoint on improving the DPRK (North Korea)-Japan relations," KCNA said.

"We vehemently condemn this case as a serious infringement upon the sovereignty of the DPRK as Kim, able linguist of the DPRK, is presumed to be lured and abducted by Japan," it said.

North Korea and Japan have been at odds over Japanese citizens who were abducted to the communist state to help train spies with Japanese language and customs.

North Korea admitted in 2002 to abducting 13 Japanese, sent five of them back and said the other eight were dead.

But Japan has been demanding more information about the eight reported dead and four others it says were also kidnapped and remain officially unaccounted for.

© Reuters

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