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Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2005

Shortwave eyed to reach out to abductees

Staff writer

A group working on behalf of Japanese believed abducted to North Korea said Monday it will start broadcasting information over shortwave radio about the missing in the hope that any Japanese in the reclusive state are tuned in.

Although North Koreans are not allowed to listen to shortwave radio, many escapees have said they did so to get information from other parts of the world, the group said.

The Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea (COMJAN) will begin broadcasting the names and ages in Japanese of people it believes were abducted for about 30 minutes a day possibly starting this month.

"If the Japanese in North Korea listen to the broadcasts, they will know we are still trying to bring them home," said Sadaki Manabe, a senior member of the group. "It will be encouraging for them."

He said he hopes the move puts pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Manabe also criticized the Japanese government, saying it should be spearheading the move.

The group said it will not disclose the name and location of the broadcaster to prevent North Korea from trying to stop the activity. The broadcasts will cost the group about 3 million yen a year.

If all goes well, COMJAN also plans to air the names of abductees officially recognized by Japan, including Megumi Yokota, who was spirited away in 1977 at age 13.

The group plans to broadcast recorded messages from the next of kin of missing Japanese. It is currently trying to determine the whereabouts of 450 missing Japanese. Of them, the identities of 248 have been revealed.

Bill passes muster

Japan's Security Council, headed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, approved a bill Monday to extend the special antiterrorism law another year to allow the Maritime Self-Defense Force to continue refueling U.S.-led coalition vessels operating off Afghanistan, government officials said.

The Cabinet is expected to endorse the bill Tuesday and submit it to the Diet for passage this session.

The antiterrorism law, due to expire Nov. 1, was enacted in October 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. The legislation was extended for two years in October 2003.

"Antiterrorism measures are important," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said at an afternoon news conference. "This is to clearly show that Japan will contribute to international cooperation at any cost."

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