Japan parliament debates loss to N. Korea
Japan's 1-0 World Cup qualifying away defeat by North Korea has stirred a debate in parliament with one lawmaker claiming the Blue Samurai could have been kidnapped if they had won in Pyongyang.
But Tokyo on Tuesday said it was not considering filing a protest with the North Korean authorities about alleged mistreatment of the Japan team before and during the November 15 match.
The Blue Samurai were held up for four hours on arrival at Pyongyang airport and roundly booed when the Japanese national anthem was played ahead of the match before an extremely partisan crowd of 50,000 at the Kim Il-Sung stadium.
"I presume that, if Japan won by 2-0 or 3-0, our players themselves would have been abducted," conservative opposition lawmaker Tetsushi Sakamoto told a lower house committee on Monday, according to Japanese media.
He praised Japan's Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni, despite the defeat which has been largely attributed to his use of a large number of substitutes for the starting line-up against North Korea.
The match result did not affect the final standing of Group C, in which Japan and Uzbekistan have already advanced to the final qualifying round, with North Korea and Tajikistan out of contention.
"The lion's share of the credit should go to manager Zac (Zaccheroni) as he let the team lose by 1-0," Sakamoto said. "Judging from the way he used the players, I presume he was resolutely prepared for a draw or defeat by the narrowest of margins."
Foreign Minister Kochiro Gemba told the committee: "I understand various things occurred (at the match) including unfortunate incidents."
At Pyongyang airport, immigration and customs officials held up the Japanese team for four hours while chiding them for laughing and confiscating "contraband" such as bananas, chewing gum, and instant noodles, according to media reports.
North Korea allowed only 150 supporters and 10 domestic journalists from Japan to visit the secretive country for the match.
The Tokyo government statement, issued in response to an opposition question, said: "It was not desirable that spectators in North Korea showed an unfriendly attitude."
"It is understood that the Japan Football Association is taking action with regard to the customs' treatment and the spectators' behaviour."
The parliamentary committee was dealing with North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s to train spies in Japanese language and culture.
The unresolved kidnapping issue has prevented the two countries from normalising ties. Japan has strictly curbed exchanges with its communist neighbour, especially after Pyongyang tested nuclear bombs.
The Japan football Association (JFA) said it had sent a letter to its North Korean counterpart making inquiries about how the Japan team were treated and about the limits imposed by Pyongyang on supporters and media from Japan.
"We made the inquiries in a communication which we regularly make with host countries after international matches," JFA spokesman Hideki Kato told AFP.
Copies of the letter were reportedly sent to world governing body FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation.
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