The parents of a girl who has come to symbolize Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and '80s voiced frustration with the lack of progress on the issue Wednesday -- 40 years to the date since their daughter was kidnapped from her seaside town by agents of the isolated nation.
Saturday marked the first anniversary of the death of Shigeru Yokota, a torchbearer of Japan's campaign to bring home citizens abducted by North Korea after his teenage daughter, Megumi, was taken in 1977. Since his death, Japan has seen little progress in efforts to resolve the abduction cases, though Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reiterated the issue remains a top priority for his administration, as it was for his predecessor, Shinzo Abe. Suga, like Abe, has urged North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to meet "without preconditions." But there has been no breakthrough in the abduction issue and broader bilateral relations. Commenting on the anniversary of Yokota's death, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato expressed regret about the Suga government not being able to advance the abduction issue, which has prevented Tokyo and Pyongyang from normalizing diplomatic ties.
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 – 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.