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 urged the government on Wednesday to work for the swift repatriation of victims, following the launch of a new Cabinet and the appointment of a new minister in charge of the abduction issue. "Please return the victims to their home country as soon as possible," Sakie Yokota, whose daughter Megumi was abducted in 1977 at the age of 13, told reporters at her home in Kawasaki. With the victims' family members aging, the 84-year-old Yokota said parents are unlikely to see their abducted children again. Her husband, Shigeru, a central figure in efforts to bring back the abductees, died at age 87 in June without being reunited with Megumi. With the new chief Cabinet secretary, Katsunobu Kato, again assuming the ministerial post of tackling the abduction issue, Yokota said she pins her hopes on Kato's expertise and knowledge.
Families of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea have called for U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to fulfill the promises made by incumbent President Donald Trump in realizing the return of their loved ones. "The United States has continued to demonstrate an attitude of cooperation, and there is an expectation that Mr. Biden will also tackle the abduction issue," said Shigeo Iizuka, who heads a group of the victims' families. The 82-year-old, whose sister Yaeko Taguchi was abducted in 1978 at the age of 22, noted that three successive U.S. presidents -- George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Trump -- had met with families of the abductees. But Iizuka could not hide concerns that Washington, still in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic and heightened racial tensions, may be too preoccupied with domestic affairs to address the abduction issue. Families and supporters have also urged Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to act swiftly on the matter without just relying on the United States.
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.