The family of a young Japanese girl abducted by North Korea in 1977 hopes that President Donald Trump could be the key to getting her back or providing closure, according to NBC News Thursday. Trump, who begins a 12-day trip to Asia on Friday, will meet with the families of several of these abductees when he's in Japan. Megumi Yokota's 49-year-old brother, Tetsuya Yokota, spoke with NBC News and believes that Trump's tough talk and hardline stance with North Korea could help his family get her back or have their questions answered. "He seems willing to apply very strong pressure, and he always goes through with what he says," said Tetsuya Yokota. "If he listens to our appeal … even if it doesn't lead to a direct rescue, I firmly believe it will definitely lead to that result indirectly."
Shigeru Yokota, father of Megumi Yokota, a symbolic figure in the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, died Friday, a source close to him said. Yokota, who worked with other abduction victims' relatives in pressing the government to rescue their children and siblings, whom they believe are still alive in the North, died without ever seeing Megumi again. She was kidnapped on her way home from school in 1977, at the age of 13. At the time, the family was living in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast after Yokota, an employee of the Bank of Japan, was transferred to a local branch of the central bank. Yokota and his wife Sakie, along with seven other families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents, formed a group in March 1997.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reaffirmed to the families of North Korean kidnap victims on Thursday his government's vow to bring the abductees back home to Japan in cooperation with the United States. In a meeting with the relatives at the Prime Minister's Office in Tokyo, Abe said he had also expressed this resolve in his address at the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York earlier this month. Also before the U.N. assembly, U.S. President Donald Trump had referred to Megumi Yokota, the daughter of Shigeru and Sakie Yokota who was abducted by North Korea in 1977 at age 13 and has become a symbol of the abductees' plight. Amid rising tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile development, the families of some of the abductees have raised concerns that the issue might be taking a backseat. "As the United States is willing to cooperate in resolving the issue, we will continue to emphasize its importance to the international community," Abe said at the meeting, which was open to the media.
Family members of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s on Monday requested that U.S. President Joe Biden's administration focus on resolving the long-standing abduction issue. Sakie Yokota, 85, mother of then 13-year-old Megumi Yokota, who was kidnapped on her way home from school, and her younger brother Takuya, 52, filed the request addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a meeting with Joseph Young, charge d'affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. It marked the first time that relatives of abduction victims had met with a senior U.S. official since Biden took office in January. The meeting took place a day before the foreign and defense ministers of Japan and the United States hold security talks in the Japanese capital at which North Korea and other regional issues are on the agenda. "We requested the Biden administration focus on resolving the abduction issue," just as previous U.S. administrations did, Takuya Yokota, who serves as secretary general of a group of the victims' families, told reporters. Tsutomu Nishioka, chairman of an advocacy group for the abductees, joined the Yokotas in handing Young a letter asking the new U.S. administration to "continue closely cooperating with the Japanese government in striving to realize the swift repatriation of all abduction victims."
On Friday, the families of Japanese abducted decades ago by North Korea pinned high hopes on a meeting developing between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "At last, we have come this far," said Sakie Yokota, 82, whose daughter Megumi was abducted by the reclusive nation in 1977 at the age of 13. "I'm looking forward" to their meeting, she said in an interview after news of the developing summit broke Friday, expressing hope the abductees will be released soon. It will be good if "Japan stands united to resolve the issue," she said. Fumiyo Saito, 72, is also eager to see progress. Her younger brother, Kaoru Matsuki, was kidnapped in 1980 at the age of 26. "All we can do is to watch."