On Feb. 20, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke by phone with U.S. President Donald Trump. The prime minister asked the president again for cooperation in resolving the issue of Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea.
President Trump is scheduled to meet again with Workers’ Party of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Feb. 27 and 28. The president told the prime minister, “I will attach importance to the abduction issue,” promising to convey Japan’s intention to Chairman Kim.
The two leaders spent 30 minutes for the teleconference. Prime Minister Abe said, “I spent more time discussing the abduction issue with Mr. Trump.” The prime minister disclosed the conversation after the teleconference, saying, “The president clearly replied, ‘I could realize how seriously you [Prime Minister Abe] consider the issue, so I will also attach importance to the matter.’”
Prime Minister Abe met with the families of abductees on Feb. 19. He said, “I explained to the president how strongly the families hope to see them again and want them to return home.”
President Trump spoke before the UN General Assembly in 2017, keeping in mind Megumi Yokota, one of the abductees: “A thirteen-year-old Japanese girl was abducted [by the DPRK] and she was later used for training spies.” The president also referred to the abduction issue during the U.S.-North Korea summit last year.
We want the president to strongly press Chairman Kim at the upcoming second summit for an early solution to the abduction issue, and we hope for a Japan-DPRK summit.
Prime Minister Abe has said that “North Korea will not be able to envision its future without resolving the abduction issue.” We want President Trump to convey this in person to Chairman Kim Jong Un. Specifically, this means that unless all the abductees are repatriated to Japan, Tokyo will take no action for the DPRK .
After the U.S.-DPRK summit last year, President Trump referred to the costs for North Korea’s denuclearization, saying, “Japan and South Korea are ready to support.” However, the two countries’ support will take place after the abduction issue has been resolved.
What concerns us is that President Trump, referring to North Korea’s denuclearization, said “I am in no rush and have no pressing time schedule for Pyongyang.” The U.S. has urged the DPRK to declare all its nuclear and missile forces and provide a list of nuclear facilities. Should the U.S. ease its sanctions against North Korea without having North Korea do so, the U.S. would have to play into the hands of North Korea.
In addition to China and Russia, even South Korea is seeking to ease and emasculate the sanctions. If the international community is split over its sanctions, the DPRK will not be denuclearized in a real sense. Moreover, it will be infeasible to resolve the abduction issue.
The abduction issue must be resolved as soon as possible. Both the victims and their families praying for their return to Japan are aging and being exhausted. The government must not miss this opportunity.