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.
“The unnamed individual was detained earlier this month and is middle-aged,” the Asahi Shimbun quoted government sources as saying.
TBS Japan later described the individual as being a 39-year old male “video creator” who had been arrested in the port city of Nampo on August 10 while on a group tour.
The Asahi Shimbun also said there were “fears” the individual may have accused of spying activities, but provided no further details.
“Securing the man’s safety is the top priority but it is possible the North Korean side might make use of the case as a bargaining chip for its negotiations with Japan,” a source described as being close to the Japanese government also told the Asahi Shimbun.
One informed source told NK News that they understood the individual traveled to North Korea with an international tour agency from Beijing.
The British run Koryo Tours, which has offices in Beijing, said it was not involved with the case.
Few Japanese citizens visit Pyongyang as tourists each year, with the Tokyo government issuing a “request to all residents not to visit North Korea” in a February 2016 advisory.
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.
In addition, Japanese sushi chef Kenji Fujimoto – who once worked for late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il – works in a small sushi restaurant in Pyongyang.
Despite the poor state of diplomatic relations between Pyongyang and Tokyo, some contact was recently made.
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.
“Although Kono told reporters that he informed Ri of Japan’s views and basic stances, he declined to disclose further details, suggesting their conversation may not have been held in an amicable atmosphere,” Kyodo said.
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Featured Image: CPC_5471 3 by nknews_hq on 2016-10-01 17:51:23