• Kyodo


The chairman of the U.S. Senate subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific affairs on Monday told the families of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea that the U.N. Security Council should take up the issue as a question of human rights.

The families met with Sen. Sam Brownback in their efforts to win the support of the international community.

The Japanese included Shigeru Yokota, 70, who heads a liaison group for Japanese families with relatives who were abducted by North Korean agents, and his wife, Sakie, 66.

At a news conference after the meeting, Yoichi Shimada, a member of a support group for the abductees, said Brownback expressed support for the families.

Brownback, a Kansas Republican, told the group the U.N. Security Council should not only deal with North Korea’s suspected nuclear arms program but also needs to address the abductions as a human rights issue, according to Shimada, an assistant professor of international politics at Fukui Prefectural University.

Brownback was also quoted as saying he wants to press the U.S. government to make the Security Council take up the issue, according to Shimada.

At the conference, Sakie Yokota said she wants to describe the sufferings of the families of the abductees to as many people as possible in the United States to deepen their understanding of the problem.

The Yokotas’ daughter, Megumi, was abducted in 1977 at age 13. North Korea said she killed herself there in 1993.

The four-member group of relatives arrived in Washington on Monday for a five-day visit. The other members of the group are Toru Hasuike, whose brother Kaoru was abducted to North Korea in 1978 and was allowed to return to Japan last October, and Teruaki Masumoto, whose sister Rumiko was abducted in 1978 at age 24. North Korea has said she died of a heart attack in 1981.

On Tuesday, the relatives will meet Senate majority leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, and Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Meetings with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert have been scheduled for Wednesday.

The families will also meet members of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee the same day.

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