GENEVA – Shigeo Iizuka, the leader of a group of families of Japanese abducted by North Korea, has sought support at a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting for the return of the victims.
“I want all of you to make further efforts so that all abduction victims can return to their families,” Iizuka, 75, told the meeting Monday. His sister, Yaeko Taguchi, was kidnapped by North Korea in 1978 at the age of 22.
It was the first time that the comprehensive human rights situation in North Korea has been discussed at the council.
Iizuka said his sister was forced to become a Japanese-language teacher in North Korea, although she asked to return to Japan because she had children.
Demanding sincere responses by Pyongyang, a Japanese government representative told the meeting that North Korea has been uncooperative with U.N. investigations.
A report compiled in February and submitted to the council by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea said the country has committed crimes against humanity through its abductions of foreigners, torture in political prisoner camps and executions.
North Korea claimed at the meeting that such claims were fabricated at the initiative of the United States.
China showed some understanding for North Korea, saying it was impossible for the commission to investigate the human rights situation objectively with insufficient information.
But the U.S. criticized North Korea, saying that human rights are abused in Pyongyang in various ways, including abductions.
Most of the 42 countries that voiced opinions at the meeting called for improvements in the human rights situation in North Korea.
Michael Kirby, chairman of the commission, proposed that the North Korean human rights issue be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Based on discussions Monday, the Japanese government and others plan to draw up a resolution to demand the U.N. Security Council send the case to the ICC and ask the commission to continue its investigations. They hope the resolution will be adopted at a meeting on March 27.
No change in Japan view
The Cabinet minister in charge of the abduction issue said Tuesday that no economic sanctions will be lifted nor aid given to North Korea without the return of Japanese abductees.
Such basic tenets of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration “haven’t changed a bit,” Keiji Furuya told a news conference following the first-ever meeting between the parents of Megumi Yokota, an iconic victim of the North Korean abductions, and her daughter last week.
Also Tuesday, Abe, Furuya and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga compared notes on the meeting in Mongolia and prospective talks that could be held between Japan and North Korea.
At a separate news conference, Suga reiterated that the government will do its utmost to bring back all of the abductees as soon as possible.
He emphasized that the Abe administration remains committed to seeking a comprehensive solution to the abduction issue, as well as North Korea’s nuclear program and missile launches.
The meeting between Shigeru and Sakie Yokota and their granddaughter, Kim Eun Gyong, could clear the way for the resumption of intergovernmental talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang over the abduction issue, suspended since late 2012 following a suspected missile test that North Korea maintains was a satellite launch.
North Korea admitted in 2002 to having abducted or lured Japanese nationals to the country in the 1970s and 1980s, including Megumi Yokota, who went missing in 1977 at the age of 13.
Five abductees returned to Japan in 2002. Japan has demanded that North Korea reinvestigate the whereabouts of other abductees who have not been returned, including Yokota, who North Korea says committed suicide in 1994.
U.S. hails Yokota meeting
Washington — The United States on Monday welcomed the recent meeting between the parents of Megumi Yokota, abducted by North Korea decades ago and her child, Kim Eun Gyong, who was born in the reclusive state.
“We support efforts by Japan to resolve the abductions issue in a transparent manner,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “We continue to closely coordinate with Japan on a full range of North Korean issues.”
Psaki declined to comment on whether Washington would welcome a restart of official talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang, while also expressing the view that it is too early to resume talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
“The United States remains prepared, as we long have, to engage constructively with North Korea. But the ball is in North Korea’s court,” Psaki said. “They must live up to their commitments, adhere to their international obligations, deal peacefully with their neighbors, and refrain from provocations.”