Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, known for his hardline stance toward North Korea, vowed Friday to settle the long-stalled abduction issue in his meeting with kin of those kidnapped by Pyongyang’s agents in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I am determined to resolve the issue,” Abe said in early part of the meeting open to the press at his office. “I will be making efforts every day to deliver results, not just words.”
The meeting, coming only two days after Abe took office as prime minister, apparently reflects the new administration’s intention to highlight its initiative for resolving the issue.
Shigeru Yokota and his wife, Sakie, whose daughter, Megumi, was abducted at the age of 13 in 1977, and other relatives of abductees attended the meeting, also joined by Keiji Furuya, state minister in charge of the abduction issue, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.
“We are filled with expectations that the government will provide a path (to resolving the issue) at an early time next year,” Shigeo Iizuka, representative of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, told the gathering. “I hope the government will seek to resolve the issue regardless of the situation it faces.”
Iizuka’s comments came as talks between Japan and North Korea, which resumed after a four-year hiatus under the government of Abe’s predecessor, Yoshihiko Noda, stalled again after North Korea launched a long-range rocket earlier this month.
Abe later said in the meeting that Japan can impose its own sanctions on North Korea to bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table and seek progress on the abduction issue, the relatives told reporters.
Kishida told the meeting Tokyo would seek to resume talks between the two countries if an opportunity arises, but didn’t elaborate, they said.
Prior to the meeting, Furuya told reporters the abductions constitute a serious violation of human rights and a problem the government must resolve, adding, “The government will work as one to tackle the issue.”
Furuya, an LDP politician who shares similar political beliefs to Abe, has said the government will set up the post of full-time secretary general at its task force on the abduction issue.