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Saturday, Oct. 7, 2006

Tanaka hammers Abe over missing abductees


Staff writer

Former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka grilled Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the Lower House Budget Committee meeting Friday for not doing enough to bring Japanese abductees in North Korea back home despite promising to do so.

News photo
Former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka asks questions during the House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting Friday. KYODO PHOTO

Abe is a known hardliner on North Korea and has taken the lead on the issue of Japanese abducted to North Korea.

September 2002, Abe accompanied then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on his historic visit to Pyongyang, where leader Kim Jong Il admitted his agents kidnapped 13 Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s and officially apologized. He allowed the five abductees he claimed were the only survivors to come home.

"Someone had to make a big decision in order to open (North Korea's) door," Abe said. "Prime Minister Koizumi went to North Korea, well aware of the political risks, but decided to go and meet the leader, and that is why the five victims were able to return in the first place."

Tanaka, an outspoken independent, argued, however, that no one else has returned since then, accusing the government, including Abe, of not doing enough.

Koizumi went to North Korea for the second time in May 2004. This visit led to the return of the family members of the five returnees, but no further, or convincing, information on other abductees was obtained.

"As a parent, it tears my heart to imagine how difficult it must be" for the parents of the abductees who still do not know their fate, Tanaka said.

Abe said the new government's job is to focus on the return of the rest of the abductees. Tokyo refuses to accept Pyongyang's claim that they are dead.

Tanaka, the daughter of the late Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, was a member of the Liberal Democratic Party until 2002, when she was dumped as foreign minister over her critical remarks against Koizumi and a quarrel with ministry bureaucrats.

She resigned as a Diet member in August 2002 over allegations that she embezzled her secretary's salary. Prosecutors, however, dropped the case and the vindicated Tanaka won back her Lower House seat in November 2003.

During the committee meeting, Tanaka told Abe, the first prime minister to be born after World War II, that he was like a little child wearing the big shoes of an adult and taking steps more and more to the right.

Tanaka criticized Abe's noncommittal stance regarding the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine.

Abe has avoided saying whether he will visit the shrine as prime minister.

It was recently reported that he visited the shrine in April, but he has not confirmed it.

"If you went to the shrine, be a man and say that you did and why," Tanaka told Abe.



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