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Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Nakayama joins race for House of Councilors seat
Pledging to devote herself to resolving the abduction issue, Kyoko Nakayama, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's special adviser on the long-standing problem, formally announced Monday she will run as a Liberal Democratic Party candidate in next month's House of Councilors election.
A week ago Abe asked her to run for a proportional representation seat to increase public awareness of the issue, which dates back to the 1970s when North Korean spies kidnapped Japanese for use in intelligence activities.
Nakayama's candidacy is widely seen as an attempt by Abe to secure votes from beyond party lines.
"I hope for only one thing as a candidate — to bring the abductees back to Japan," Nakayama told a news conference. "I'd like to make further efforts to work to solve the abduction problem by putting into it my whole heart and soul."
The former Finance Ministry official first entered the spotlight in 2002 as an adviser on the abduction issue to Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi.
"This (abduction) issue is largely a political issue, and there are some angles that I could work as a politician" rather than as Abe's adviser, she said.
Nakayama said she plans to keep her current post after the election, regardless of whether she wins a Diet seat.
"Gaining the support of many people (in the election) would send a message to North Korea," she said.
Abe gained much of his popularity through his hardline stance on the abduction issue, and Nakayama likewise is tough on how to deal with Pyongyang and maintains good relationships with the abductees' families.
The government officially lists 17 Japanese as having been spirited away by the North and is demanding that Pyongyang acknowledge this and come clean on their fates. Pyongyang has acknowledged abducting 13 and allowed the five it claimed were the only survivors to return to Japan in 2002 after Koizumi cut a deal with Kim Jong Il.
It is still uncertain how her activity as a politician would be affected by her husband, nationalist LDP lawmaker Nariaki Nakayama. The former education minister heads a group of patriotic politicians campaigning against a resolution before the U.S. House of Representatives that demands a formal apology from Japan's prime minister for the wartime sexual enslavement of women and girls across Asia.
The group of 130 fellow LDP members is also known for getting references to Japan's wartime sex slaves struck from most authorized history texts for junior high schools.
To gather swing votes, the LDP has been fielding some well-known people as candidates, including TV Asahi presenter Tamayo Marukawa, who will run for an Upper House seat from Tokyo.
The LDP also tried to recruit Kazuyoshi Miura, a professional soccer player of Yokoyama FC, but he turned down the request.