TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday he remains committed to holding talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without preconditions to resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by Pyongyang in a meeting with their relatives.
“I will meet with Mr. Kim without preconditions and am determined to work towards an early resolution through sober analysis and by not missing any chances,” Abe said in the meeting.
The prime minister told the relatives that U.S. President Donald Trump raised the issue of the abductions in the 1970s and 1980s during the Group of Seven summit in France last month.
“We will make all out efforts by combining our strengths with the United States and the international community,” Abe said.
Abductees’ family members were disappointed by little progress on the issue at U.S.-North Korea summit talks in February, even though the Japanese and U.S. leaders agreed to cooperate in addressing issues including the kidnappings prior to the second summit in Hanoi.
But in May, Trump pledged his continued support when he met with families of the abductees in Tokyo.
“There’s been a lot of movement both at home and abroad. We also place hope in negotiations between Japan and North Korea. It’s the perfect chance,” said Shigeo Iizuka, head of a group representing the abductees’ families, in reference to the Trump-Kim summit held in late June amongst others.
At the June meeting, Trump and Kim agreed to meet again. The potential third summit revived hopes of resolving the issue of the missing family members.
Sakie Yokota, the mother of Megumi Yokota who disappeared on the way home from school in 1977 at age 13, said “If nothing else, I just want the prime minister to resolve the abduction issue. Please give us the opportunity to see our children while our families are still healthy.”
Following the meeting, Abe participated in a gathering addressing the abduction issue.
“It is important that people come together and demonstrate a strong will to bringing home all abductees as soon as possible,” he said.
Japan officially lists 17 people as abductees, five of whom were repatriated in 2002, and suspects North Korea’s involvement in many more disappearances.
The North maintains that eight of the 17 have died and the remaining four never entered the country.