Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, meeting with relatives of North Korean abduction victims, said he remains committed to holding talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without preconditions to resolve the issue.
“I will meet with Mr. Kim without preconditions and am determined to work toward an early resolution through sober analysis and by not missing any chances,” Abe said during Monday’s meeting.
Abe told the relatives that U.S. President Donald Trump raised the abduction issue during the Group of Seven summit in France last month.
“We will make all out efforts by combining our strengths with the United States and the international community,” Abe said.
The family members were disappointed by the lack of progress during the U.S.-North Korean summit in February even though the Japanese and U.S. leaders had agreed to cooperate on addressing the issue.
In May, Trump pledged his continued support when he met with families of the abductees in Tokyo.
“There’s been a lot of movement both at home and abroad. We also place hope in negotiations between Japan and North Korea. It’s the perfect chance,” said Shigeo Iizuka, head of a group representing abductees families, in reference to the Trump-Kim summit in late June and other developments.
At the June meeting, Trump and Kim agreed to meet again. The potential third summit revived hopes of resolving the issue of the missing family members.
Sakie Yokota, the mother of Megumi Yokota, who disappeared on the way home from school in 1977 at age 13, said: “If nothing else, I just want the prime minister to resolve the abduction issue. Please give us the opportunity to see our children while our families are still healthy.”
Following the meeting, Abe participated in a gathering addressing the abduction issue.
“It is important that people come together and demonstrate a strong will to bring home all abductees as soon as possible,” he said.
Japan officially lists 17 people as abductees, five of whom were repatriated in 2002, and suspects North Korea’s involvement in many more disappearances.
The North maintains that eight of the 17 have died and the remaining four never entered the country.