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.
Two groups from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a request to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea following its fifth nuclear test. In the request, submitted Friday, the LDP's Headquarters for North Korean Abductions and Foreign Affairs Division called for requiring permission for sending cash to North Korea. The groups also sought thorough measures to block trade with North Korea via third countries and expanding the scope of assets to be frozen. "We need to take steps different from the past, as the threat from North Korea has entered a new phase," Abe said when he received the request from LDP members including Eriko Yamatani, chairwoman of the headquarters. The groups also asked the government to ensure that a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution notes North Korea's human rights violations, including abductions, and that Washington redesignates Pyongyang as a state sponsor of terrorism.
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.
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.