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Kidnapping of Japanese Citizens by North Korea is a Bilateral Issue, says China's Hu - 2003-10-20

Chinese President Hu Jintao said Monday that the issue of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea is a matter that must be settled between the two countries.

Mr. Hu raised the issue of North Korea kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to train as spies at a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

The Chinese president said the issue of the kidnapped Japanese was an 'historical issue,' and while he expressed sympathy for the Japanese victims, he made it clear the matter was between North Korea and Japan.

He said he hoped the two countries would be able to resolve the matter.

Japan has been trying to rally support from the 21 APEC countries attending the summit in condemning North Korea.

Japan wants to include the kidnapping on the agenda of the six-nation talks over North Korea's nuclear program.

North Korea has admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese nationals. A year ago, the survivors - numbering only 5 - were allowed to visit Tokyo and their hometowns for two weeks before returning to North Korea.

Members of the five survivors families were kept in North Korea to ensure the five would return.

North Korea also was at the top of the agenda on Sunday when Bush met with President Hu, who pledged to encourage North Korea to return to multiparty nuclear talks soon.