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Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009

Ishihara urges Obama to act on abductees

Staff writer

A group of governors seeking the return of Japanese abducted by North Korea called the U.S. delisting of Pyongyang from its terrorism blacklist "incoherent" and urged President-elect Barack Obama to take prompt action on the matter.

The Assembled Governors for the Return of Victims of Abduction by North Korea, which was formed in November and is chaired by Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, requested during a news conference in Tokyo that the next U.S. president address the issue sincerely.

"Lack of devotion and concern (by the U.S.) on the issue has become a barrier" to resolving the abduction issue, Ishihara told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

Although President George W. Bush promised the United States "will never forget" the abduction issue, "such words are typically used when a man heartlessly leaves a woman," Ishihara said.

Of the 46 members of the group, Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida, Saitama Gov. Kiyoshi Ueda, Gunma Gov. Masaaki Osawa and Tottori Gov. Shinji Hirai were at the news conference, along with Ishihara.

They said the group will send a letter to Obama expressing its deep regret over the delisting of North Korea and urging Washington to acknowledge Japan's "dialogue and pressure" approach toward Pyongyang to secure the return of the abductees.

Ishihara did not specify how the group will pressure and persuade the hermit state to take action, saying he is not considering paying a visit to the North to negotiate in person.

But the governors said they may collaborate in pursuing a real estate acquisition tax on North Korea-related properties in Japan, including on the headquarters of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, commonly known as Chongryon.

Pyongyang had agreed to complete a reinvestigation into the abduction of Japanese nationals by last fall in return for Tokyo lifting its sanctions against the North. But it announced in September that the process was being postponed following Yasuo Fukuda's abrupt resignation as prime minister.

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The Japan Times

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