NEW YORK – A senior Japanese official on Tuesday welcomed U.S. President Donald Trump's criticism of North Korea's abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s in his address to the U.N. General Assembly. Trump's speech reflects "deeper understanding" in the United States about the abduction issue, a high-priority issue for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura told journalists on the fringes of the annual gathering of world leaders in New York. "I think it means an understanding (about the issue) has gotten through" to the United States and other countries, Nishimura said. "We earned understanding from President Trump, who quoted the issue in the speech." Japan will continue to do its best in resolving the abduction issue while also addressing Pyongyang's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, he said.
WASHINGTON – Family members of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s on Wednesday pressed the reclusive state to immediately return all kidnap victims. They made their demand in the United States ahead of the upcoming meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump has promised to raise the abduction issue during the meeting. Speaking after a meeting with former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage just outside Washington, Takuya Yokota, whose older sister was abducted, said he was encouraged by Armitage's comments that Kim has no right to say the issue has been settled and that it is only the victims' families who can declare it closed. Yokota's sister, Megumi, was taken from Niigata Prefecture while on her way home from school in 1977.
WASHINGTON – The brother of one of the Japanese nationals who was abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s and a former Japanese minister in charge of the abduction issue said Wednesday they have requested that the United States relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. "I hope the U.S. government will put (North Korea) back on the state sponsor of terrorism list" as part of an effort to increase pressure on the leadership of Kim Jong Un, Takuya Yokota told reporters in Washington following a series of meetings with U.S. officials and lawmakers. "A soft approach does not work when we negotiate with North Korea," said Yokota, secretary general of the Association of Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, adding that "pressure is the only way to solve" the abduction issue. Yokota's older sister, Megumi, was taken from Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast while on her way home from school in 1977 when she was 17. Speaking alongside Yokota, former abduction minister Eriko Yamatani quoted Matt Pottinger, senior director for Asia at the U.S. National Security Council, as saying President Donald Trump's administration is actively considering relisting North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Pottinger said the administration would like to take into account the abduction issue when discussing the potential relisting, according to Yamatani, a House of Councilors member from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party.
In a landmark telephone conversation, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday agreed to closely cooperate in resolving the North Korean nuclear and missile issues and confirmed the importance of U.N. sanctions against the North to achieve that goal. In the first telephone talks ever between a Japanese prime minister and Chinese president -- demonstrating the rapidly warming ties between Asia's two biggest powers -- Abe and Xi welcomed the recent commitment by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in toward a "complete" denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The two leaders also agreed to cooperate on resolving the abduction issue, a senior government official said. Xi's promise to help resolve the long-stalled issue, which involves Japanese abducted in the 1970s and 1980s, is positive news for Abe amid concerns Japan is being left behind by the five-way surge in diplomatic activity. Abe has said the issue is one of his top priorities.
NEW YORK – Tokyo exhorted Pyongyang on Thursday to take "concrete action" toward resolving the issue of abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, along with its denuclearization. Katsunobu Kato, minister in charge of the abduction issue, made the comments at the U.N. headquarters in New York during a symposium on the human rights situation in North Korea. Referring to the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit, he said, "It is important that the United States raise the issue of abduction and entice action from North Korea." "We must maintain'maximum pressure' against North Korea" until Pyongyang takes such action "toward denuclearization and resolution of human rights issues, including abduction," he said. "The families of the abductees consider this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."