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Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Parents urge government to act

Old kidnap case reopens with North Korea revelations


Staff writer

KOBE -- The parents of Keiko Arimoto, who disappeared from Copenhagen in 1983, on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the Foreign Ministry to press North Korea for answers to their daughter's disappearance.

The plea came a day after the National Police Agency said the wife of a former Japanese Red Army member confessed that Arimoto had been kidnapped to Pyongyang almost two decades ago.

"We were grateful to hear the news (of the launch of the investigation). But we still need answers," said Akihiro Arimoto, the girl's father, who is a resident of Kobe's Nagata Ward. "The Foreign Ministry and many Japanese politicians have done nothing in the past to help us. I hope that the prime minister will take actions and not be tied down by those who want to hide the truth."

Keiko Arimoto's name has been added to the list of Japanese nationals the government suspects have been kidnapped to North Korea, and police have launched a task force to investigate the issue.

Japan has said it suspects that, in addition to Keiko Arimoto, 10 other Japanese nationals have been kidnapped by North Korea

"We were told by police that the former wife of the Red Army member admitted that she helped kidnap Keiko from Copenhagen and handed her over to North Korean agents in 1983," said Akihiro.

In July of that year, Keiko wrote to tell her parents that she had gotten her ticket home and would be arriving August 9. But on the day of her scheduled return, the family received a telegram that she would not be returning because she wanted to continue working.

The last letter her parents received from her, dated in October and sent from Copenhagen, said that she had found a job in Europe and would be staying longer. That was the last contact the family had with her.

"We didn't know what had happened until 1988 when I received a telephone call from a woman in Hokkaido whom I did not know," said Keiko's mother, Kayoko. "This woman said that her son had disappeared in Europe two years before Keiko disappeared and was living in North Korea with Keiko. I was sent photographs of the woman's son, Keiko, a third Japanese national, and a picture of a child who looked 4 or 5 years old."

The revelation sparked a long struggle between the Arimotos, who wanted to know what had happened, and the central government. Both parents said they were repeatedly rebuffed by police and the Foreign Ministry in their quest to find answers.

Authorities said their hands were tied because there are no diplomatic ties between Japan and North Korea.

"They were not serious about pursuing those who were kidnapped," said Kayoko.

Added Akihiro: "The Japanese government needs to restart negotiations with North Korea immediately."



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