Family members of Japanese abducted by North Korea called Thursday in Washington for international cooperation to quickly resolve the issue.

The symposium was the first of its kind hosted by the Japanese government in the United States.

Shigeo Iizuka, a brother of abduction victim Yaeko Taguchi, said as he showed her picture to the audience: "She stares at me, saying, 'Help me.' My heart aches whenever I see this face."

Iizuka, 74, is a representative of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea.

Teruaki Masumoto, secretary general of the association, stressed the urgent need to resolve the conflict quickly because the abductees and their families are growing old.

"We must bring the abductees back soon, even one," he said.

Keiji Furuya, state minister in charge of the abduction issue, said U.S. understanding and support is vital to resolve the problem.

Robert King, U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights issues, said U.S. support for Japan's effort to resolve the abduction issue is stronger than ever.

The Japanese government has identified 17 Japanese who were abducted by North Korean agents. Five were repatriated to Japan in 2002.

After the symposium, Furuya told a news conference that the Japanese government, while seeking a comprehensive solution to North Korea-related issues, places priority on resolving the abduction issue.

Progress in the abduction issue would likely lead to advancement over the nuclear and missile issues, he said.