• Kyodo


U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer on Thursday visited the site in Niigata where North Korean agents abducted 13-year-old Megumi Yokota in 1977.

Yokota was kidnapped near her home on Nov. 15, 1977, after participating in an extracurricular activity at her junior high school. According to a former North Korean agent, she was taken to North Korea aboard a boat that had been waiting off a beach near her home. Pyongyang claimed in 2004 that she committed suicide in 1994 and turned over what the North said were her remains, which DNA tests in Japan proved otherwise.

Accompanied by Yokota’s parents, Shigeru, 73, and Sakie, 70, as well as their supporters and the Niigata mayor, Schieffer toured the street where the girl was believed abducted, her former home and the beach.

While walking around the area in the morning, the ambassador asked the parents, who now live in Kawasaki, many questions.

“I’m so glad that I came today because I think anyone who has walked these streets as I have would be touched,” Schieffer said in the city. “This is one of the saddest, if not the saddest, stories ever heard.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe told reporters in the conference: “The visit was significant for the resolution of the abduction issue because it signals both to Japan and the world that the United States has interest in the issue.”

Before meeting Schieffer, Yokota’s mother, Sakie, 70, said near the abduction site: “I find it repulsive to come here even after many visits. But I believe I must pass along in the proper way what really transpired,” she said at the school her daughter attended.

In the morning, Schieffer and the Yokotas first visited the junior high school Megumi attended and then moved to an intersection where she is believed to have been kidnapped, because a police dog lost track of her trace at that location.

The group then walked to the shore from which she is believed to have been taken aboard a North Korean vessel.

All of these places are within a range of 1 km in a peaceful neighborhood where children play outside and old men walk dogs along the beach.

The ambassador promised the family that he will raise the issue with U.S. President George W. Bush.