Following is Yomiuri Shimbun’s interview with Minister in charge of the Abduction Issue Katsunobu Kato.
President Donald Trump brought up the issue of Japanese abductees at the summit with Workers’ Party of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un. This was a very significant outcome and I am deeply grateful to the president. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “Eventually, there needs to be a Japan-North Korea summit” in order to resolve the abduction issue. Under the leadership of PM Abe, a politician who has made a strong commitment to resolving the abduction issue, I want to make good use of this “one-in-a-million” chance.
First of all, North Korea must disclose information on the victims of its kidnapping. Then we need to realize the return of all victims to Japan. That is our only goal. The prime minister has repeatedly said, “I cannot envision a bright future for North Korea if it doesn’t resolve the abduction issue.” We need to create an environment in which Chairman Kim understands the true intention of PM Abe’s remarks, the international situation, and the DPRK’s position in the international community so he can make a reasonable judgment about the abduction issue.
In order to facilitate the return of all abduction victims to Japan, we will urge North Korea to fulfill the 2014 Stockholm agreement between Japan and North Korea. I am aware that there are various views about the agreement, but it should be recognized that the agreement had North Korea, which said that “the abduction issue was already resolved,” open the door to negotiations and express its intention to reinvestigate the abduction and other issues. It is unacceptable, though, that the DPRK later unilaterally declared the dissolution of a special investigative committee, which was in charge of the reinvestigation. We have no intention to scrap the agreement.
There are Japanese citizens who were abducted more than 40 years ago and family members of abduction victims who passed away without ever seeing again their loved ones kidnapped by North Korea. Since last year, the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea began to include “resolve the abduction issue within this year” in their campaign language. While the association members call for “the return of abduction victims as soon as possible,” some members urge the government “not to readily compromise with North Korea until there are prospects for resolving the issue.” The important thing is whether and how the government, keeping both those views in mind, will arrange a Japan-DPRK summit, which should not be a dialogue for dialogue’s sake or for buying time.