National

Abe pressures North Korea at rally for abductees' families

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

With North Korea’s report approaching on its second probe into the fate of the Japanese it abducted, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday vowed in front of their families that his administration is committed to bringing them home.

“Our mission won’t be completed until the day comes when the families can embrace their (abducted) relatives in their arms,” Abe said at a conference on the issue at Hibiya Public Hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Before an audience of around 1,800 people, including some of the families, Abe repeated that solving the decades-old abductees issue is one of the highest priorities of his administration and said that public opinion will boost Japan’s negotiating power with the reclusive North.

Abe also hinted that Japan’s unilateral sanctions won’t be lifted unless the communist state takes concrete action to resolve the abductions, which date to the 1970s and 1980s.

Eriko Yamatani, new minister on the abduction issue, echoed Abe, saying Japan remains committed to pressuring the North to resolve the issue satisfactorily.

“The government is strongly calling for North Korea to take sincere and concrete actions,” Yamatani said. “We will make an all-out effort to solve the abduction issue as soon as possible so that the investigation promised by North Korea would lead to the return of all abductees.”

Yamatani also noted the government is ready to take measures to ensure any survivors live trouble-free lives in Japan if repatriated.

North Korea has said it will release its first report on the new investigation around “late summer or early autumn,” Yamatani said. On July 4, North Korea set up a special committee to probe the whereabouts of the abductees, and Japan on the same day lifted some of its unilateral sanctions.

The government officially says 17 Japanese were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and ’80s. Of them, five returned to Japan in 2002 after then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang that year, although the trigger for that deal remains shrouded in mystery. The isolated state claims the remaining 12 either died or never entered the country.

According to the latest estimate by the National Police Agency, as many as 883 Japanese may have been abducted by North Korean agents.

Meanwhile, Shigeo Iizuka, head of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, said what the victims’ relatives want is “plain results.”

“I’d like to confirm that Japanese, including the government, absolutely will not accept any insincere report,” said Iizuka, the 76-year-old elder brother of Yaeko Taguchi, who was snatched by the North in 1978 at the age of 22.

The event was jointly organized by a number of groups, including the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, and the Parliamentarian League for Early Repatriation of Japanese Citizens Kidnapped by North Korea.

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