North Korea detains 2 Japanese, likely over drug smuggling

TOKYO, April 20 — North Korea has detained two Japanese men on a visit to an industrial zone in the country, likely on suspicion of drug trafficking, Japanese media reported today, citing diplomatic sources.

North Korea, which has no diplomatic ties with nearby Japan, initially held three Japanese men but one has already been released, the Asahi newspaper reported on its website.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said he is aware of news reports on the matter but declined to comment. "Due to the nature of this issue, I would like to refrain from commenting," he told a regular news conference.

People connected to the detained men, employees of a machinery maintenance firm who were in the Rason industrial zone to work with a local food processing company, have received a request to pay bail, the Asahi and public broadcaster NHK reported.

Tokyo has said that North Korea is a major source of illegal drugs sold in Japan. North Korea in 2009 said it had released a Japanese man detained for more than five years for trying to smuggle narcotics.

Talks to normalise ties between Tokyo and Pyongyang have been halted for years with the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, an emotional subject in Japan, a major obstacle. — Reuters  



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