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(LEAD) N. Korea says two Japanese detainees to face legal actions
SEOUL, May 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Wednesday that it will take legal actions against two Japanese citizens detained since March on charges of drug trafficking and counterfeiting.

   North Korea arrested Masaki Furuya of JP Dairin and two other Japanese citizens after they entered Rason City in the North's special economic zone near North Korea's border with Russia on March 14.

   The North later expelled Furuya while it is preparing to take legal actions against Hidehiko Abe and Takumi Hirooka of two separate Japanese companies.

   "What they did is a very grave violation of the law of the (North) and international law and they will, therefore, face proper legal actions," said the North's official Korean Central News Agency. The KCNA claimed they admitted their crimes, though it did not elaborate.

   Each charge of drug trafficking and counterfeiting carries a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted, said Choi Eun-suk, a North Korea legal expert at Kyungnam University.

   The North's confirmation came weeks after Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper said two Japanese people were taken into custody and another was expelled while visiting Rason in a trip to check machines at a food manufacturing factory.

   The newspaper reported last month that the three Japanese were detained on charges that they hid drugs in canned goods to be exported to China.

   North Korea did not say whether it has informed the Japanese government of its decision to take legal actions.

   Pyongyang and Tokyo do not have diplomatic relations following the end of 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

   The detention of a Japanese citizen in North Korea is not unprecedented. In 2003, North Korea arrested a Japanese man on drug smuggling charges before allowing him to return home on humanitarian grounds in 2009.

   The North's announcement came weeks after North Korea confirmed the separate detention of a Korean-American man on a crime against the North.

   The North said it will indict Jun Young-su, who was arrested in November, claiming he admitted his crime in the course of the investigation.