WASHINGTON – Relatives of Japanese abducted by North Korea said they were upset by remarks by Kurt Campbell, the top U.S. diplomat on East Asian affairs, in their meeting Monday at which he urged Japan to address the issue of parental child abductions.
Campbell devoted nearly half of his time at the meeting at the State Department to stressing the importance of the parental child abduction issue, according to Teruaki Masumoto, whose sister, Rumiko, was abducted by North Korean agents.
The United States and other countries are currently pressing Tokyo to sign an international treaty on dealing with cases of parental child abductions.
Campbell brought the issue up despite saying it was not related to the abductions of Japanese by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, Masumoto said.
“I told the U.S. side that the parental child abduction is an issue that should be basically resolved between parents, while the abduction (of Japanese by North Korea) is a state crime and the abductees’ lives are at stake,” he told reporters in Washington.
“We cannot accept” that the two issues were raised at the same time, Masumoto added.
Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, was meeting with a Japanese group comprising family members of abduction victims and a cross-party group of Diet members dealing with the issue.
After Campbell later left the room, his deputy, Jim Zumwalt, explained to the Japanese side that Washington will continue to take up the abduction issue appropriately, Masumoto said.
If the Japanese public believes that Washington is linking the two issues, the relationship of trust that has been built between the two countries could collapse, he said.
“We will urge the United States to firmly understand that the abductions (by North Korea) are a vital matter,” he said.
Takeo Hiranuma, who heads the Diet members’ multiparty caucus, said he has no intention of raising the U.S. response in the meeting as a political issue.
U.S. officials with whom the families of the Japanese abductees and supporting lawmakers met included Robert King, special envoy for North Korean human rights, Glyn Davies, special representative for North Korean policy, and David Cohen, undersecretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.
The Japanese group also provided the U.S. government with “convincing information” about David Sneddon, a native of Utah who was possibly abducted by North Korea while in China in 2004.
Japan will seek Diet passage of a bill to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction during the current session through June.