Japanese man linked to terrorists hijacking plane in 1970 arrested

A Japanese man linked to terrorists who in 1970 hijacked a plane and ordered it to fly to North Korea was arrested as he returned from Pyongyang.

Kuniya Akagi, 52, was arrested at Kansai International Airport in Osaka for alleged passport violations, shortly after returning home for the first time in 20 years via Beijing, according to a Tokyo Metropolitan Police official who spoke on customary condition of anonymity.

He was arrested on charges of entering North Korea without Japanese government permission in 1987, when entry to the communist nation was restricted, the official said.

Akagi, also known as Jun Ogawa, is the brother-in-law of one of nine hijackers belonging to the radical Japan Red Army group who forced a Japan Airlines jetliner to fly to Pyongyang from Japan in 1970.

Nobody was hurt in the hijacking, the first ever to occur in Japan. The hijackers used samurai swords and pipe bombs to force the pilots to first fly the Fukuoka-bound plane to the South Korean capital of Seoul, where the passengers were released, then to Pyongyang.

The North granted the hijackers asylum, while the plane's pilots were allowed to fly the jetliner back to Japan several days later.

Akagi is also suspected of kidnapping Japanese citizens decades ago, according to news reports. Investigators plan to question Akagi about the alleged abduction of three Japanese students from Europe to North Korea in the 1980s, public broadcaster NHK said.

North Korea has admitted it kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens to train its communist spies in Japanese language and culture. Pyongyang released five Japanese in 2002 but said eight others, including the three taken from Europe, had died.

Police believe the Red Army group helped the communist state plan and execute the abductions.

Akagi was based in Vienna in the 1980s before he moved to North Korea, he said in a recent statement posted on the Web site of a Red Army supporter group. He did not say why he was returning to Japan.

Akagi has denied any knowledge of the alleged abductions.