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Man feared snatched by N. Korea found in Japan

TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese man feared snatched by North Korea after he went missing almost two decades ago was found alive in Japan earlier this month, police said Thursday. 

The issue of abductions to North Korea is a highly-charged one in Japan, where there are suspicions dozens of people were kidnapped by agents from the isolated country. That fate is also seen a possibility for hundreds of others.

Kazuya Miyauchi, who went missing aged 32 in Fukui prefecture, on Japan's west coast opposite North Korea, was found in early June, a Fukui Police Department official said.

"We have concluded that he wasn't involved in any criminal case or abduction by North Korea," the official said.

The official, who said that 51-year-old Miyauchi was found "outside the prefecture" of Fukui, declined to provide further details, including where he had been or what he had been doing since 1997, the year he went missing.

Miyauchi was not among 17 Japanese formally listed by the government as abducted by Pyongyang. Rather, he was considered as one of more than 800 missing people for whom the possibility of being kidnapped by the isolated state cannot be ruled out.

But there are strong suspicions in Japan that dozens of other citizens were also snatched by the North. 

North Korea caused outrage in Japan when it admitted in 2002 that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies in the country's language and customs.

Five of those were allowed to return home but Pyongyang has insisted, without producing solid evidence, that the eight others are dead.

Tokyo has imposed sanctions against North Korea in line with and on top of UN resolutions against the country over its nuclear and missile tests.