Anti-U.S. base groups in Okinawa, Japanese nationals previously abducted by North Korea and the relatives of abductees on Thursday urged the new U.S. administration under President Joe Biden to take the initiative in resolving their respective issues.
People in Okinawa have called on Biden to review a controversial Japan-U.S. plan to relocate a key U.S. military base within the southernmost island prefecture.
"The will of Okinawans has continued to be ignored. I want (the Japanese and U.S. governments) to respect it," said Yuji Fukumoto, 64, the head of All Okinawa Kaigi, an anti-relocation group of political parties and residents.
Most people in Okinawa oppose the planned transfer of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, located in a residential area of Ginowan, to the less populated coastal area of Henoko in Nago.
But the central government has maintained that the current transfer plan is "the only solution" for eliminating the dangers posed by the Futenma base without undermining the deterrence provided by the Japan-U.S. security alliance.
"The Japanese government is stubborn about Henoko and we'll have to see how Okinawa makes its case to the new U.S. administration under Biden," Fukumoto said.
Meanwhile, relatives of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea expressed hope that Biden would realize the return of their loved ones, a promise unfulfilled by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former President Donald Trump.
"Biden has said he would work closely (with Japan), so I want him to make good on that promise. I want him to hold more specific talks (on how to resolve the abduction issue) and move toward a resolution," said Shigeo Iizuka, 82, who heads a group representing the abductees' families.
Japan officially lists 17 people as having been abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, of whom five were repatriated in 2002. Pyongyang maintains that the abduction issue has been resolved, claiming that eight abductees have died and the remaining four never entered the country.
Yasushi Chimura and his wife Fukie, both 65, who were among the five repatriated, said through their city government in Obama, Fukui Prefecture, "We sincerely hope that the new president will work to resolve the abduction issue by bringing it before the international community."
Shigenobu Takahashi, who met Biden during his visit in August 2011 as U.S. vice president to a coastal town hit hard by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that left nearly 15,900 people dead and over 2,500 missing, expressed hope.
"I want him to overcome difficulties and support America and the world," Takahashi said.
Biden, who visited Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, five months after the Great East Japan Earthquake, had empathized with victims, saying he shared their pain based on his own experience of losing family members, according to Takahashi.
"Under Biden, even unity might be achieved," he said.
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