WASHINGTON – U.S. President George W. Bush is considering meeting with Megumi Yokota’s mother and other abductees’ relatives Friday morning at the White House, U.S. administration sources said Wednesday.
Senior White House officials told the relatives that Bush has strong concerns about North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens.
“I was impressed that they seriously listened to each of our comments,” Sakie Yokota, 70, told reporters after the families met with White House officials.
Her daughter was abducted from Niigata Prefecture by North Korean agents in 1977 at age 13.
The meeting participants said Deputy National Security Adviser Jack Crouch stressed that the United States would not set aside the abductions and other human rights issues as it pursues sanctions over North Korea’s alleged currency counterfeiting and other illicit activities, and a resolution to its nuclear threat through the six-party talks.
Other White House officials at the meeting included Dennis Wilder, acting senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council, and Jay Lefkowitz, special envoy for human rights in North Korea.
The relatives also visited the Defense Department earlier in the day, and Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England promised to continue to cooperate, but pointed out that dealing with Pyongyang is difficult, the participants said.
Among the other officials at the Pentagon meeting were Deputy Defense Undersecretary for Asia and Pacific Affairs Richard Lawless, Senior Country Director for Japan John Hill as well as several top military officers.
England and all other Pentagon officials wore blue ribbons, symbols of support for the families and others working with them.
“I had the impression that the U.S. government’s interest in the abduction issue has increased,” said Teruaki Masumoto, 50, whose older sister, Rumiko, was abducted in 1978, when she was 24.
Masumoto, secretary general of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, has come to Washington many times.
Kenichi Ichikawa, 61, whose younger brother, Shuichi, vanished in 1978 at age 22, said he was encouraged by the U.S. officials’ comments and noted the relatives needed to continue their work until Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is forced to impose sanctions on North Korea.