U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to meet with the families of those abducted by North Korea when he visits Japan as a state guest from May 25. There are a great expectations for his role in realizing the return of all victims to Japan.
President Trump has long shown a deep understanding of this issue. When he visited Japan in November 2017, he met with the members of the association of families of victims kidnapped by North Korea and promised to “do his best to work with Prime Minister Abe to get them back to Japan.”
In the second U.S.-DPRK summit, held in Hanoi, Vietnam, this past February, President Trump pressed Workers’ Party of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un by telling him “no noticeable progress has been seen” in the DPRK’s dealing with the abduction issue. It is reported that there was a moment when Chairman Kim repeatedly made excuses and tensions between the two leaders grew.
As a result, Chairman Kim acknowledged that the challenges Japan and the DPRK face include the “abduction issue” and said he is “prepared to meet” with Prime Minister Abe. This was the background that led Prime Minister Abe to announce a policy of holding a Japan-DPRK summit without preconditions.
The support extended by Japan’s ally, which possesses a powerful military, is assuring. It is fortunate that Present Trump, who shows an understanding of the abduction issue, is close to Prime Minister Abe and also maintains a channel of direct dialogue with Chairman Kim. Every possible step must be taken to resolve the abduction issue. In the end, the Japanese government must save the lives of all abductees with its own hands.
This month, a working panel of the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted recommendations calling for the prompt return of foreign victims, including Japanese abductees, and other concrete actions regarding abductions involving the DPRK. But the DPRK sticks to the conventional position that the abduction issue “has been resolved” and announced that it will reject the recommendations.
The DPRK will not be able to chart a future as long as it leaves the abduction issue unaddressed. The situation will not change if Chairman Kim is not made to understand this plain fact. The strong partnership between Japan and the U.S. can make this possible. Japan should seize President Trump’s visit to Japan as the best opportunity to stress the importance of resolving the abduction issue. (Abridged)