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Japanese abductee's kin urges U.S. to relist North Korea as state sponsor of terrorism

The Japan Times

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.

Trump repeatedly took up abduction issue with Kim Jong Un: senior U.S. official

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump repeatedly took up the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in his talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam in February, a senior U.S. official said Friday. Matt Pottinger, senior director for Asia at the National Security Council, disclosed the information at a meeting in Washington with family members of abduction victims. Pottinger pledged U.S. support for efforts to resolve the decades-old issue. According to Lower House lawmaker Keiji Furuya, Pottinger explained that at the bilateral summit, Trump referred to the abduction issue repeatedly, although Kim tried to change the subject of their talks. Furuya, who chairs a group of lawmakers working on the abduction issue, joined the meeting between Pottinger and the family members of abductees.

Families of abductees seek help from U.S. for immediate return of kin from North Korea

The Japan Times

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.

Tokyo watches and waits as Biden team formulates its North Korea policy

The Japan Times

The administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is paying close attention to U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's approach to nuclear-armed North Korea, as Tokyo seeks to resolve the festering issue of Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang decades ago. But progress on the issue -- a top concern of Suga -- depends heavily on the course of U.S. relations with North Korea. Japan will convey to Biden's side its position on the abduction issue plus North Korea's missile and nuclear development programs before the U.S. presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, informed sources said. On Sunday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato attended a meeting held in Niigata to seek the resolution of the issue and renewed the government's determination to resolve the issue in cooperation with the next U.S. administration. "We'll make full efforts to bring home all abductees as soon as possible," said Kato, also minister in charge of the abduction issue.

Abe, Xi agree to cooperate in tackling N. Korea nuclear issue

The Japan Times

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.