Japan checking report of Japanese man held in North Korea

TOKYO — Japan's government said Saturday that it is looking into reports that a Japanese citizen was detained this month in North Korea.

A report from the broadcaster NTV said the man is a 39-year-old self-claimed "video creator" who was on a group tour in the North and was supposed to return to Japan on Aug. 13. The report said he might have been seized while trying to film a military facility in North Korea's northwestern region.

The man, who is not identified by name, has visited North Korea several times in the past and was arrested in Nampo city, according to TBS television.

The Asahi newspaper reported that the man faces possible spying allegations.

Japan's Foreign Ministry said Saturday that it is looking into the case following the reports. It declined to give further details.

Japan is still trying to secure the release of Japanese abducted to North Korea decades ago, a major dispute between the two countries that have no diplomatic relations.

Japan says North Korea abducted at least 17 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to train agents in Japanese culture and language to spy on South Korea.

After decades of denial, North Korea in 2002 acknowledged abducting 13 of them and allowed five to visit Japan, where they stayed. The North says eight others died, but Japanese officials and their families demand their release, saying what North Korea says cannot be trusted.

Amid North Korea's increased diplomatic engagement and dialogue with Japan's other neighbors and the U.S., Japan was seen as out of the loop and was hoping to set up a summit on the sidelines of international conferences later this year. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed hopes to hold talks with the North's leader Kim Jong Un but only when that would lead to a settlement of the abduction issue.

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