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Editorial: Concurrent appointment as abduction minister gives impression that issue is neglected

The Cabinet appointments conveyed a message on the new administration’s course of action to those in and outside the country. Prime Minister Kishida Fumio has appointed Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu concurrently as Minister in charge of the Abductions Issue.


The post of the Minister in charge of the Abductions Issue has been reserved as a joint appointment for the Chief Cabinet Secretary since the Abe Shinzo administration appointed Suga Yoshihide to the post.


A Cabinet member holding this post concurrently with another demanding post unavoidably gives the impression to both those in and outside Japan that the abduction issue is being neglected, even if successive prime ministers call the abduction issue the “most important issue.”


Yokota Sakie, the mother of North Korean abductee Yokota Megumi, said of Matsuno, “I don’t know him at all. I heard of him for the first time.” Iizuka Shigeo, the representative of the abduction victims’ family association, said more bluntly, “I don’t sense determination. It seems that people think he can work concurrently as the Chief Cabinet Secretary, but that will not work.”


We think North Korea has the same impression. Wouldn’t they come to the conclusion that the Japanese government does not attach great importance to the abduction issue? Kishida and Matsuno said that they talked with Sakie and Iizuka by phone, but it did little to dispel the frustration of the abductees’ families.


Kishida and Minister in charge of the Abductions Issue Matsuno should carefully read the “Letter to Megumi” published in the Sankei Shimbun on Oct. 3.


Sakie wrote, “As more than 40 years have passed since the abduction occurred, I always worry that this unjust and cruel fact would be forgotten and a resolution would become distant,” and “as the situation stands, Japan will leave the root of the issue to the next generation without wiping out the ‘nation’s shame’.”


The government should take a mother’s concerns seriously and dispel [the abductees’] families’ anxieties through concrete actions.


Kishida was foreign minister when North Korea signed the “Stockholm Agreement” in May 2014, promising to re-investigate the abductee issue. Japan should first reproach North Korea for the breach of this promise and firmly call for a summit. We must let North Korea know that our anger at the abductions will not subside.


Oct. 5 was Megumi’s 57th birthday. She was born five days before the opening of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and her future was full of promise. She was abducted and taken away by North Korean agents in the fall of her thirteenth year.


Political inaction can not be tolerated when one considers the days of a girl’s unjust captivity in a strange country and the long, painful and cruel years for her family that followed.

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