TOKYO — North Korea has detained a Japanese tourist visiting the country, possibly on spying charges, Japanese media reported Saturday, complicating efforts to seek rapprochement between the two countries.
President Trump has said Japan is among the Asian countries he expects to provide economic aid to North Korea should it give up its nuclear weapons. But Japan is also determined to resolve the issue of its citizens who were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.
Now, there is another man to worry about.
The Kyodo news agency reported that the man, in his 30s, was detained in the western port town of Nampo while on a group tour organized by a foreign agency.
Broadcaster NTV said the man describes himself as a “video creator” and might have been seized while trying to film a military facility in North Korea’s northwestern region.
TBS Television said he had visited North Korea several times in the past, and the Kyodo news agency and the Asahi newspaper said he could face spying allegations, citing official sources.
“North Korea may use the man it has held as a bargaining chip for negotiations with Japan,” a government official told Kyodo.
Japan has found itself somewhat on the sidelines since Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been hoping to arrange his own summit with Kim.
But the abduction issue is a sensitive one in Japan and one that Abe has championed in the past, putting pressure on him to make progress if there is a summit. No date for him to meet Kim has been set.
Japan says at least 17 of its citizens were abducted by North Korean agents from beaches and coastal areas in the late 1970s and early 1980s, some to teach spies about Japanese language and culture, or simply to obtain their identities.
After decades of denial, North Korea finally admitted in 2002 to having kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens, allowing five to return home and claiming the other eight were dead. It now says the case is closed, something Japan and relatives of the disappeared do not accept.