Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday he will closely coordinate with President Donald Trump on efforts to settle the issue of abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea ahead of the second summit between the U.S. leader and Kim Jong Un, set for next week.
Abe, who met with family members of abduction victims Tuesday, told a Diet committee that he will ask Trump to convey to the North Korean leader his view on how to settle the abduction issue.
“I want to closely coordinate our policies (with Trump) to resolve North Korea’s nuclear, missile and — most importantly — abduction issues,” the prime minister said.
Abe and Trump were expected to talk via phone later in the day.
When Trump met with Kim for the first time in Singapore in June, he took up the abduction issue at Abe’s request. The two are scheduled to meet again on Feb. 27 and 28 in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.
Abe also reiterated his resolve to secure the return of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.
“The Abe administration will take action decisively, (so as) not to miss out on any opportunity,” he said.
In a meeting between Abe and some family members of abduction victims a day earlier, Shigeo Iizuka, head of a group representing abductees’ families, called for a quick resolution to the issue, and explained to the prime minister the group’s recent message for Kim. The message, sent Sunday, advised the North Korean leader that the group would not oppose diplomatic normalization if all the abduction victims were immediately returned.
Sakie Yokota, the mother of abductee Megumi Yokota, who has long been a symbol of the kidnappings, said it would be better and quicker for the prime minister to meet with Kim in person to convey the wishes of the families and the government.
Tokyo officially considers 17 Japanese nationals as having been abducted by the North, and suspects the country’s involvement in many more disappearances.
Five of the 17 returned home in 2002, but Pyongyang maintains that eight have died and the other four never entered the country.
However, an unidentified Japanese official recently said that Pyongyang had backtracked on this, confirming that Minoru Tanaka, one of the 17 victims, is currently living in Pyongyang with his wife, and that Tatsumitsu Kaneda, who Tokyo believes was abducted, is also in the country.