The government on Wednesday promised the families of five visiting Japanese who were abducted by North Korea that it will consider their request to have them remain here and to bring their children to Japan.
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe told the families at a Tokyo hotel that he understands their wishes and will consult with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda about how to deal with the matter, according to lawmakers supporting the families.
Koizumi later told the Diet, “We will work on an early realization of the homecoming of the abduction victims along with their families.”
The five, who returned Oct. 15 for the first time since they were kidnapped in 1978, are visiting their families and hometowns but are being pressed by North Korea to return by Monday.
Abe, however, indicated to the families he does not believe it necessary for the returnees to go back before Tokyo and Pyongyang resume normalization talks Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur.
Japan and North Korea reportedly agreed to have the five visit Japan for around two weeks starting Oct. 15.
The families have been struggling to deal with the abductees’ desire to return as early as possible out of concern for their children.
The relatives and a group of supporters met with government officials, including Abe and Cabinet Secretariat adviser Kyoko Nakayama, to submit a letter opposing the return of the five to North Korea and demanding that all their family members in the North be brought to Japan.
They said Tokyo should not allow the five to return to North Korea because Pyongyang could break its promise to let them permanently move back to Japan.
Tamotsu Chimura, father of abductee Yasushi Chimura, said he wants the government to bring the children of the five abductees to Japan regardless of the abductees’ wishes.
“Under the circumstances (in which the abductees’ children have been left behind in North Korea), they cannot say what they want to do,” he said after meeting with government officials. “It’s impossible to convince (the abductees to stay in Japan without first going back to the North), so we want the government to talk about it (in the upcoming talks with Pyongyang) and bring the children back to Japan while (the abductees) are in Japan.”
Chimura added that the five have not been able to contact their children since coming to Japan.
Yuko Hamamoto, brother of abductee Fukie Chimura, said: “It has been over a week since (Fukie) came back to Japan. But I haven’t had time to relax and talk deeply with her.
“We have been waiting for 24 years. I told her I won’t let her go back.”
Separately, the elder brother of visiting abductee Kaoru Hasuike said his family will not allow Hasuike to return to North Korea and urged Tokyo to arrange as soon as possible for his children and those of the four other abductees in the North to come to Japan.
“As a family, we will definitely not allow Kaoru to return to North Korea,” Toru Hasuike, 47, told reporters in Myokokogen, Niigata Prefecture.
If North Korea’s nuclear programs come into focus, the abduction issues could be relegated to the sidelines again, he said. “If he returns to North Korea, there is no guarantee that he will ever be able to come again to Japan,” Toru said.
The relatives said the Japanese government should take the initiative and bring the abductees’ family members to Japan.
The family members in question include 62-year-old Charles Robert Jenkins, a former U.S. soldier who married abductee Hitomi Soga, 43; and Kim Hye Gyong, the daughter of abductee Megumi Yokota, whom North Korea claims is dead.
Yokota was abducted from Niigata in 1977 at age 13. She reportedly married a North Korean and gave birth to the girl, who is now 15. According to Pyongyang, Yokota committed suicide in 1993 after being hospitalized for depression.
Sakie Yokota, mother of Megumi Yokota, told reporters she asked the government to investigate Megumi’s husband to ascertain whether he is really her grandchild’s father.
“We know nothing about her father,” she said. “We want the government to find out what kind of person he is.”
Megumi’s father, Shigeru, said he was planning to visit Kim in North Korea but had changed his mind in favor of demanding that Kim and her father meet him in Japan.
The relatives also said many other Japanese nationals are thought to have been abducted to North Korea and called on Tokyo to investigate these cases.
They also voiced strong dissatisfaction with Pyongyang’s statement that it would be impossible for the abductees’ children to visit Japan in November due to their school schedules.
Abe expressed understanding of this position and said Tokyo is not looking to send the five back ahead of the bilateral talks, in line with its original plans.
The Pyongyang officials have also suggested that the abductees’ relatives in Japan visit the five in North Korea.
Tokyo is considering a plan to extend the abductees’ stay in Japan and to urge the North during the talks to let the children join their parents, government sources said. It is also considering allowing the five to go back to North Korea after Pyongyang confirms that they and their relatives may return to Japan in November.
The government was to hammer out details Thursday of a support package aimed at helping the five abductees currently visiting Japan settle back here on a permanent basis, government officials said Wednesday.
A government task force headed by Shinzo Abe, deputy chief Cabinet secretary, is considering measures related to the proposed permanent return to Japan of the abductees, together with their children, who are currently in North Korea.
These measures, pursued at the request of the relatives of the abductees, include helping the returnees find jobs and providing Japanese-language classes for their North Korean-born children.