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Editorial: Japan and U.S. should work together to rescue all abductees

North Korea had launched a medium-range ballistic missile toward the Sea of Japan during the recent Japan-U.S. summit meeting held in the U.S. and this week assassinated Kim Jong-nam, an elder brother of Kim Jong-un, the chairman of the Workers’ Party. How much longer will people abducted by the DPRK be kept there– in a country governed by terror – that has no regard for how its actions may appear to the international community? Every means possible must be taken to rescue all the abductees.

 

“The two leaders affirmed the importance of an early resolution of the abductions issue,” said the joint statement made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Donald Trump in the latest summit meeting. This is the first time such language was included in documents exchanged between leaders of the two countries. We hope this will become the first step toward resolving the abductions issue.

 

In the press conference after the summit meeting, although Abe said, “President Trump and I completely agreed on the importance of resolving the abductions issue,” the president did not refer to the issue in his remarks. We cannot help but feel something was missing.

 

Through the recent summit meeting, Abe built a close relationship with the president. We hope the prime minister will continue bringing up the matter at bilateral meetings by saying, “There will be no future for North Korea without the complete resolution of the abductions issue.” In this way, we hope Abe will strongly urge the U.S. to work together to rescue all abductees.

 

In February last year, North Korea unilaterally announced that it will dismantle “the special investigation committee” that had promised to reinvestigate abductees. Since then, we have seen no visible progress in the issue.

 

The DPRK said the dismantling of the committee was a retaliation for Japan’s  imposing its own sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear test and missile launches. The abduction is, however, a clear state-sponsored criminal act. The issue should never have been used as a bargaining chip in the first place.

 

An American student, David Sneddon from Utah, disappeared in China’s Yunnan Province in 2004. It was later confirmed that he had been abducted by North Korean agents. In September last year, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution to call on the government to conduct a thorough investigation of the matter. This means the U.S., too, is a country concerned with this issue, so Japan and the U.S. should work together for its resolution.

 

At the emergency press conference held in response to North Korea’s missile launch, President Trump said, “The U.S. stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100%.” His remarks should apply to the abduction issue as well. As such, it is important for Japan to urge the U.S. to send a strong, direct message to North Korea regarding the abduction issue.

 

The Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea met with then President George Bush in Washington in 2006 and with former President Barack Obama in Tokyo in 2014, calling for their cooperation in resolving the issue. We hope President Trump shares our anger over the abductions by North Korea.

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