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Japan asks N. Korea to return 2 abducted kids, hand over perpetrator.

TOKYO, April 27 Kyodo

Japan urged North Korea Friday through embassy channels to return two children abducted more than three decades ago by a group of North Korean agents and hand over a woman who led the group, Japan's Foreign Ministry said.

The Japanese Embassy in China also demanded that the North Korean Embassy there shed light on the incident, which Japan protested as a grave infringement of sovereignty, the ministry said.

Japan's demand comes a day after Japanese police obtained an arrest warrant for the woman, an ethnic Korean who became a Japanese national and whose name is Yoko Kinoshita.

The National Police Agency put her on the international wanted list through Interpol. She is believed to be living in North Korea.

The two children, who do not have Japanese nationality, were Ko Gyong Mi, then a 6-year-old girl whose Japanese given name is Kiyomi, and Ko Gang, then a 3-year-old boy whose Japanese name is Tsuyoshi.

They were allegedly abducted to North Korea from Obama, Fukui Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan coast, aboard a spy ship in mid-June 1974, after being detained with their Japanese mother Hideko Watanabe, then 32, in late 1973. Watanabe may well have been killed, investigative sources said.

Watanabe's husband Ko Dae Gi was a Korean resident in Japan and worked at Universe Trading -- a now-defunct trading company in Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward. The company is believed to have served as a base for North Korean covert operations in Japan, they said.

Kinoshita was also an employee of Universe Trading and is believed to have been the leader of North Korean agents working at the company. She left Japan in 1979, the sources said.

On April 12, the Japanese government designated the two children as having been abducted to North Korea, raising the total on its official list of abductees by North Korean agents to 19.

North Korea admitted in 2002 for the first time that it abducted 13 Japanese nationals in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Five of them returned to Japan in October 2002, but North Korea claims that the other eight had died.

The Japanese government continues to dispute the North Korean claims, while Pyongyang maintains the abduction issue has been resolved.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Apr 30, 2007
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