• Kyodo

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Families of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea decades ago said Wednesday they are hopeful the planned U.S.-North Korea summit will pave the way toward finally bringing home those taken.

With U.S. President Donald Trump saying he will “take it up” at his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the head of a group representing abductees’ families, Shigeo Iizuka, 79, said he wants the American leader to make sure Pyongyang follows through.

“We want him to win a firm commitment that (Pyongyang) will return the victims to Japan,” said Iizuka, whose sister Yaeko Taguchi has been recognized by the government as having been abducted by North Korea in 1978 at the age of 22. Iizuka added that he thinks the U.S. leader could offer Pyongyang something in return for such a commitment.

“We want the government, the Diet and any organization to work on it with the sense that there will be no resolution if we miss this chance,” he said.

Kenichi Ichikawa, whose then-23-year-old brother Shuichi went missing from the shores of Kagoshima Prefecture in 1978, said he, too, is hoping the summit, due to be held by June, will lead to a breakthrough.

“I am grateful he will bring up the issue at the U.S.-North Korea summit,” the 73-year-old said. “I have been suffering for the past 40 years, and this is the chance of a lifetime.”

Ichikawa met with Trump when he visited Japan last year and received a commitment from the president that he would make efforts to help abductees reunite with their families.

Akihiro Arimoto, 89, whose daughter Keiko disappeared in 1983 at age 23, also welcomed the move, saying it provides a lot of hope to the families.

Arimoto said he wants Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to continue pushing North Korea to return the abductees through public statements on Japan’s unshakable position.

Last month, a group of family members of Japanese abducted by the North in the 1970s and ’80s asked Abe to call on Trump to make concrete plans to bring their kin back to Japan.

Tokyo officially lists 17 of its citizens as having been abducted by North Korea and suspects Pyongyang’s involvement in other disappearances. Five of the 17 were returned home in 2002, but North Korea maintains eight have died and the other four were never in the country.

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