June 6 (UPI) — A man who identified himself as a North Korean national and promised to help procure the release of a Japanese abduction victim has been arrested, according to a Japanese press report.
Kyodo News reported Wednesday police in Akita Prefecture said the defendant in his 40s said he would find the missing daughter of the plaintiff for about $7,300.
The defendant claimed that he was North Korean and the plaintiff’s missing child had been abducted to North Korea.
“I will help broker her return,” the defendant said, according to police.
The defendant has so far denied the charges, according to Kyodo.
The issue of abducted Japanese citizens is at the focus of Tokyo’s concerns ahead of Tuesday’s summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe left for the United States on Wednesday to meet with Trump and raise the issue of the abductions, according to the Asahi Shimbun.
“The discussion will likely be simply, ‘Please make sure to talk about the abduction problem, because this is a matter of life or death for Japan’,” a senior Japanese official told the newspaper.
Abe may be concerned the issue will get sidelined as Trump deprioritizes “maximum pressure” against North Korea, possibly in return for a better meeting with Kim.
Defense ministers of Japan, the United States and South Korea also omitted the term “maximum pressure” from their joint statement issued Sunday.
Japan has previously said North Korea must return 12 Japanese nationals, but according to the Asahi on Wednesday the position is “at least one of the 12” should be repatriated.
A dozen abductees are still officially recognized by Tokyo.