The families of Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea met for the first time with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Friday and demanded that the government confirm the information from the Stalinist state regarding the fates of the missing people.
During the hourlong meeting, the families criticized the government for unquestioningly accepting the information provided by Pyongyang on Sept. 17, when Koizumi held a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
A list handed over by North Korea before the summit contained the names, dates of birth and dates of death of eight Japanese. The list also said five abducted Japanese were alive in North Korea.
The family members said scientific procedures such as DNA testing should be used to confirm the identities of the dead. They also demanded that Koizumi bring home within a month the surviving abductees and whatever children they may have.
Koizumi told the families he understands their anguish.
“Diplomatic normalization between the two countries will never come before solving this issue,” Koizumi vowed.
He also stressed the groundbreaking elements of the summit to the relatives, including Kim’s startling admission of the abductions and his subsequent apology.
But Koizumi’s words did little to placate them. After the meeting, the family members expressed their disappointment with the prime minister.
“I expected more specific answers from the prime minister,” said Shigeru Yokota, speaking at a news conference inside a Diet building. “His responses did not meet my expectations.”
Yokota’s daughter, Megumi, was abducted in 1977 at age 13 in Niigata Prefecture.
Akihiro Arimoto, whose daughter Keiko was kidnapped in Europe and taken to North Korea in 1983, complained that Koizumi’s voice was so low he could not understand what the prime minister was saying.
Earlier Friday, the government confirmed that it will provide support to abductees’ relatives and will move to resolve the cases through negotiations with the reclusive country.
In a special meeting to discuss issues surrounding the upcoming normalization talks with North Korea, members of Koizumi’s Cabinet agreed to coordinate among their ministries and agencies to better respond to the families’ wishes.
They also agreed to seek more information from Pyongyang on the abductees and others suspected to have been taken to the country by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, Cabinet members said.
During the Cabinet meeting, National Public Safety Commission Chairman Jin Murai briefed fellow Cabinet members on the current state of investigations into suspected additional abduction cases.
Police have begun re-examining cases of missing Japanese since North Korea provided information on one individual who was not on the Japanese government’s official list of 11 nationals believed abducted.
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