TOKYO — Families of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea decades ago urged Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday to quickly resolve the issue while the victims’ parents are still alive.
During a meeting with the prime minister at his office, Takuya Yokota, who heads the families’ group, presented the group’s campaign policy for this year that underscored its desire to resolve the issue given the aging families.
“We strongly urge the Japanese government once again to present specific strategies, a road map and a deadline for rescuing the victims,” said Yokota, a younger brother of abductee Megumi Yokota who was kidnapped at age 13 in 1977.
“I will act at my full power to realize the return of all the abductees as soon as possible,” said Kishida, vowing to work with the United States and other countries to resolve the issue and reiterating he will not set preconditions for a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
On Monday, the families’ group requested that U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel help resolve the long-standing issue.
The past abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents has been a major stumbling block for normalizing diplomatic ties between Tokyo and Pyongyang, along with the country’s nuclear and missile development.
The latest meeting came after North Korea earlier Wednesday conducted what is believed to have been an unsuccessful ballistic missile firing in a series of missile tests since January.
The Japanese government officially lists 17 citizens as having been abducted by North Korea and suspects Pyongyang’s involvement in other disappearances of Japanese nationals.
Of the 17, five were repatriated in 2002 following then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visit to North Korea. While Japan continues to seek the return of the remaining 12, North Korea maintains that eight have died and the other four never entered the country.