A North Korean mouthpiece in Japan on Monday demanded the return of a group of North Korean women who defected from a restaurant in China in 2016.

In a reunion of families separated by the Korean War scheduled for August, "their sorrow of separation should be alleviated. And the victims of an abduction, a plot to make the political use of them, should be sent immediately back" to their families, the Choson Sinbo newspaper said.

In high-level cross-border talks in January, North Korean delegates also demanded their return and that of another female defector from Pyongyang, identified as Kim Ryon-hi, as a precondition to resume the family reunions.

North Korea claims the women were abducted by South Korea's National Intelligence Service, and the restaurant manager has suggested on TV that they did indeed have help from intelligence agents.

Kim arrived in South Korea in 2011 but has been asking the government here to send her back to the North, claiming that she was duped by a broker. The Choson Sinbo also called for Kim's immediate return Monday. 

One researcher with a state-run think tank here said the North "seems to be trying to stir up the community of defectors and fan conflict within South Korean society" ahead of a summit with the U.S.

North Korean propaganda outlet Meari said, "If reunification materializes, the traitors who should be tried before the nation first are none other than the defectors."

Meanwhile, Radio Free Asia reported that the bodies of North Koreans who were shot trying to flee to China across the Apnok River last winter are floating to the surface as the weather warms.
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