The first item on Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s agenda when he meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il will be his demand for information about 11 Japanese believed abducted to the Stalinist state between 1977 and 1983, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Monday.

Koizumi and Kim are to hold their historic summit in Pyongyang on Tuesday.

“It is the highest matter of concern, and the issue is one of the security of the country and its people,” Fukuoda told reporters at Koizumi’s office in Tokyo after meeting with relatives of the missing.

“The prime minister has said resolution of the abduction issue is the starting point of negotiations. We will hold discussions (with North Korea) from this perspective,” he said.

Koizumi will pay a one-day visit to Pyongyang for the landmark summit with Kim.

The prime minister has said he will not resume the stalled talks to normalize ties with North Korea unless progress is made on the abduction issue.

In the morning, Fukuda met with 14 relatives of eight of the 11 Japanese listed as abducted. They urged the government to achieve progress at the summit toward gaining the freedom and return of all 11.

The relatives also reiterated their request to meet directly with the prime minister.

But Fukuda rejected the request, telling them Koizumi was busy planning his strategy for the summit and could not be disturbed, according to Toru Hasuike, 47, whose younger brother is one of the 11 suspected abductees.

Fukuda instead offered to pass along their messages to Koizumi in the afternoon.

After the meeting, Shigeru Yokota, the 69-year-old father of Megumi Yokota, who at age 13 disappeared in 1977 along the Niigata coast, told reporters, “Now that things have come this far, all I can do is believe in the prime minister and wait.

“Personally, I hold high expectations for the summit.”

Hasuike, the elder brother of Kaoru Hasuike, who is thought to have been abducted and taken to North Korea at age 20 from Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, in 1978, asked Koizumi through Fukuda to be resolute in his talks with Kim.

“I want him to negotiate with an unyielding spirit so he can walk out of the meeting if (North Korea) makes an ambiguous response,” he said.

Hasuike’s 70-year-old mother, Hatsui, said she wants Koizumi to bring all 11 Japanese back with him on the government plane.

Later in the day, Koizumi sent a message to the families of the missing Japanese.

“I have certainly understood your feelings from the bottom of your hearts. I will negotiate with all my strength to reflect your feelings,” Koizumi said in the message to a gathering of the relatives in Tokyo.

About 2,000 relatives of the missing, lawmakers and supporters at the meeting called for an early resolution of the cases.

Participants adopted an appeal calling on Pyongyang to resolve the cases and apologize.

Seoul has high hopes

SEOUL (Kyodo) South Korea hopes Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s historic summit Tuesday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il will have a “good impact” on the regional situation, President Kim Dae Jung’s senior press secretary said Monday.

“The meeting between the two top leaders of Japan and North Korea truly carries historic meaning,” Park Sun Sook said.

South Korea anticipates the summit will be “a starting point and provide important momentum toward resolving a lot of problems pending between the two countries,” she said.

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