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Japan protests to North Korea over fake evidence
Updated: 2004-12-08 20:32

TOKYO - Japan protested to North Korea on Wednesday after finding the country had provided fake evidence about the fate of Japanese citizens it had abducted.

The Japanese embassy in Beijing lodged the protest with the North Korean delegation in the Chinese capital, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said. The two nations have no diplomatic ties.

Earlier, the Japanese government's top spokesman said tests had confirmed that bones Pyongyang said were the remains of a Japanese abductee were not hers, and that as a result talks with North Korea had hit a major obstacle.

The finding is likely to further increase calls in Japan to slap impoverished North Korea with economic sanctions. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Tokyo was now unlikely to extend the second half of an already promised food aid package.

North Korea admitted in 2002 to kidnapping 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to help train its spies, and Japan believes another two were also abducted. Five have returned to Japan.

Pyongyang says eight are dead, but Tokyo has been pressing for evidence about those eight and the missing two.

North Korea submitted the bones at talks in Pyongyang in November, saying they were the remains of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted in 1977 when she was 13 and who North Korea says committed suicide in 1994.

"We've reached the conclusion that they are not Yokota's," Hosoda told a news conference, adding that DNA tests showed the bones came from more than one person.

"Future Japan-North Korea talks have hit a very big obstacle."

Japan has said that unless doubts about the abductees were cleared up, it would not resume discussions with North Korea on normalising ties.


Pressure has been mounting in Japan for sanctions on North Korea after last month's talks on the abductee issue ended inconclusively, but officials, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, have so far been reluctant to take such action.

"I think the only option left ... is for Japan to quickly enact economic sanctions," Takuya Yokota, Megumi's younger brother, told a news conference.

Many lawmakers in Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) expressed anger at North Korea and some even said stronger steps might be necessary.

"There is not a shred of sincerity in North Korea's attitude. It now seems meaningless to discuss this issue with them," said Shinzo Abe, who heads the LDP's task force on the abduction issue.

"Would economic sanctions be enough?" asked LDP secretary-general Tsutomu Takebe.

But Koizumi, while saying it was regrettable that North Korea had submitted fake evidence, said talks with Pyongyang would continue.

"We have to consider both dialogue and pressure. We must continue negotiations," he told reporters.

Hosoda said the government would consider what steps to take after lodging the protest and inspecting other items brought back from Pyongyang.

Public outrage over the dispute is also fueling calls for Japan to freeze distribution of 125,500 tonnes of food aid, the second half of a promised humanitarian package.

The abductee issue has been a major obstacle to establishing diplomatic ties between Pyongyang and Tokyo, along with concerns over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

A decision by Japan to impose economic sanctions -- such as halting cash remittances from Koreans living in Japan -- could derail efforts to resume six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear arms program, analysts have said.

Discussions among the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia have been held three times, but Pyongyang declined to attend a previously agreed follow-up in September.

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