Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Japan gains new radio frequency for service targeted to North Korea

Text of report in English by Japanese news agency Kyodo
Tokyo, March 20 Kyodo - An international body regulating telecommunications told the Japanese government Monday it plans to grant Japan a new radio frequency it had been asking for in order to send family messages to possibly surviving Japanese abductees in North Korea, sources familiar with the matter said.
The Japanese government had been requesting the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union to allocate Japan a frequency for the shortwave radio service “Shiokaze” by the Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea. The government is expected to permit the use of the frequency by the private group looking into possible abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents after the allocation becomes official.
The rare move to secure a radio frequency for a private group that is not primarily tasked with broadcasting is believed to reflect the government’s aim to push its view that the abduction issue is a top priority and pressure North Korea. The abduction issue was one of the points of focus at bilateral talks on normalization of ties held in Hanoi earlier this month, but Japan and North Korea failed to reach any agreement.
The group began broadcasting “Shiokaze” in October 2005, sending messages by families of victims of North Korea’s abductions and providing information on victims and other missing people in Japanese every day. The service covers North Korea, parts of China bordering North Korea and northern South Korea. But the service has been troubled by jamming, believed to be caused by North Korea, since last May, and was forced to change its frequency as well as broadcasting hours.
The group has engaged a British broadcaster to send its messages through facilities in countries surrounding North Korea, but because the company was not Japanese it complicated attempts to solve the problem of jamming. Once the new frequency is given to the group, it can ask the ITU to take measures against obstruction of services.
The Japanese government formally recognizes 17 citizens as having been abducted to North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s, while Pyongyang in 2002 admitted to abducting 13 Japanese and returned five of them afterward, but has since maintained the eight others are dead or never entered the country. The Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea claims there are over 30 Japanese suspected of being abduction victims.
(Source: Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 1716 gmt 19 Mar 07 via BBC Monitoring/R Netherlands Media Network Weblog)