TOKYO (AP) — Families of Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea decades ago on Friday urged Japan’s leader to persuade President Donald Trump to help win the abductees’ release during his summit with North Korea’s leader.
Trump expects to meet Kim Jong Un by the end of May, though North Korea hasn’t commented on the South Korean report that Kim wanted to meet Trump.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit the U.S. in April for talks with Trump, likely after Kim’s summit April 27 with South Korea’s president.
The abductees’ families urged Abe to seek Trump’s help as this could be their last chance to win their loved ones’ release.
“Please ask President Trump to discuss (with Kim) how to achieve the abductees’ return,” Shigeo Iizuka, 79, head of a group representing the families of abduction victims, told Abe. “We would like President Trump to ask Kim Jong Un to make specific arrangements for the abductees to return home.”
Abe promised to do so, saying, “We should not let the abduction issue, which is very important to us, to be left behind.”
Iizuka’s younger sister, Yaeko Taguchi, then 22, was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1978, leaving behind two children — a baby boy and a girl — at a nursery. Iizuka adopted the boy and raised him as his fourth child, and the girl was adopted by an aunt.
Taguchi’s whereabouts weren’t known for nearly a quarter century until North Korea, after years of denials, acknowledged in 2002 abducting 13 Japanese citizens. Japan says North Korea has abducted at least four more Japanese.
Pyongyang allowed five of them to visit Japan in 2002 — and they stayed — but said the other eight had died, though their families say what the North said cannot be trusted. North Korea had promised a re-investigation of the eight and set up a committee, but its results were never presented as Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear threats escalated.
Iizuka said he and the other families want Abe to “make use of each upcoming meeting” to achieve the abductees’ return.
“We see a big chance coming up, and there will be no greater chance than this,” he said.
Also Friday, China’s state councilor Yang Jiechi was in Seoul to brief South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the outcome of Chinese President Xi Jingping’s summit with Kim.
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