N. Korea detains Japanese man, throwing Tokyo into a panic:The Asahi Shimbun

North Korean flag flies above the propaganda village of Gijungdong as seen from a South Korean military check point

North Korean flag flies above the propaganda village of Gijungdong as seen from a South Korean military check point

A Japanese individual has been arrested in North Korea, the Tokyo-based Asahi Shimbun reported on Saturday, suggesting the person may have been accused of spying. He was in Nampo, a port town in the western part of the country, the source said. But Japan is also determined to resolve the issue of its citizens who were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. Five were returned several years ago after talks held under the administration of Junichiro Koizumi.

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.

A Foreign Ministry official declined to provide specifics on the case, such as the objective of the man's visit, saying only that the ministry is in the process of confirming the details.

In 1999, a Japanese newspaper reporter in North Korea was detained for about two years on spying charges, Kyodo News reported.

In this June 14 photo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, bows to Shigeo Iizuka, second from right, leader of a group of families of Japanese abducted by North Korea, and Sakie Yokota, third from right, mother of Megumi Yokota, one of the Japanese abductees, and other members during a meeting at his official residence in Tokyo.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono was reported to have spoken with his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho at Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings in Singapore, Kyodo News said on August 5. The team was apparently established sometime between April and the historic U.S.

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Despite the poor state of diplomatic relations between Pyongyang and Tokyo, some contact was recently made.

"While securing the safety of the man is the utmost priority, there is the possibility North Korea could use the man's detention as a card in negotiations with Japan", a government source said.

Tokyo has long sought answers about the abduction issue.

However, ethnic Koreans residing in Japan do regularly visit the North, with tour groups of "Chongryon" citizens often reported by official DPRK state media as visiting the country.

But no substantial progress has been made despite exchanges via the team, the sources said, and prospects for making progress are clouded by the murky outlook of the denuclearization talks between the US and North Korea.

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