A Japanese man in his 30s was detained in Nampo in the western part of North Korea earlier this month.

However, the Japanese Foreign Ministry, which is in charge of protecting Japanese nationals, has not revealed anything about negotiations with North Korea for his release.

On Aug. 23, Japanese journalist Takashi Sugishima, 79, who had been detained in North Korea for two years and two months from 1999 to 2002, talked about his detention and the latest incident in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo.

“The (Japanese government) should disclose information on the negotiations and heighten momentum for his release,” Sugishima said.

Sugishima visited North Korea for the first time when he was working for the major economic newspaper Nikkei as a reporter. When he made his fifth visit to the country in December 1999, six months after he left the newspaper, he was detained.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Question: Tell me about the process leading to your detention.

Sugishima: In December 1999, I entered North Korea from Beijing with five other people to mourn for a member of a group that hijacked the Yodogo airplane (to North Korea in 1970).

On the day of my return to Japan, a car that was supposed to go to the airport suddenly headed to a hotel in Pyongyang, and I was taken into a room by a surveillance agent who was in the car.

Q: Did the North Korean authorities offer you an explanation about the reason for your detention?

A: I was told “suspicion of spying” by an interrogator. My camera and wallet were confiscated. Interrogations continued for about nine hours per day for three months. I was given three meals a day, but I thought about committing suicide.

In the interrogations, I was forced to admit that I was spying for the Japanese government. Interrogators were looking into my relationship with the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office and the Public Security Intelligence Agency. My interrogators knew about all the information and photos of North Korea that I had provided to the Japanese government in the past.

Q: What information did you provide to the Japanese government?

A: In response to requests from the government, I provided photos I had taken and offered information. But surveillance was strict on the tour (of my fifth visit). Because of that, I took few photos. Therefore, I think that the reason for my detention was not the acts I conducted during the tour. (The North Korean authorities) were probably waiting for my visit.

Q: What do you think was North Korea’s purpose?

A: The time (when I was detained) was several months before Japan and North Korea resumed negotiations to normalize diplomatic relations. I think that North Korea wanted to have a bargaining chip to proceed with the talks in its favor. The country probably thought it would be able to obtain diplomatic concessions from Japan in exchange for my release.

Q: A Japanese man was detained in Nampo this month.

A: When people visit North Korea through travel agencies’ tours, they are placed under strict surveillance without fail. It is difficult to move around and take photos freely. I don’t think they can conduct spying activities in such circumstances. The North Korean authorities have probably detained him to obtain a diplomatic card.

Q: The Japanese government has yet to disclose any information.

A: The government’s moves were also invisible in my case. It is necessary for the government to disclose information positively (about the status of negotiations) and heighten momentum for his release along with the public. Making visible negotiations will lead the North Korean leadership to move (toward his release).