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Family members of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea decades renewed their call for cooperation to resolve the issue, stressing that they can never give up on the goal of bringing home their loved ones.

Some 800 people, including family members of the abductees, their supporters, local assembly members, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, prefectural governors and lawmakers, gathered in Tokyo on Sunday where they called for the immediate return of the abductees.

The coronavirus pandemic has hampered efforts to rescue the abductees, said Shigeo Iizuka, 83, head of an association of families of abduction victims and the brother of abductee Yaeko Taguchi.

“We can never give up,” Iizuka said. “We want to work with all related parties as one to accelerate efforts” to realize the early return of the abductees.

Iizuka urged the Japanese government to draw up a concrete plan and make efforts to rescue the abductees.

“The prime minister and the minister in charge of the abduction issue have changed frequently,” Iizuka added. “Every time a new person takes office, we ask them to work on the matter but their efforts have yet to bear fruit,” he went on to say.

Given that all the abductees’ family members are aging, “We have no time to waste,” Prime Minister Kishida told the gathering.

“The abduction issue is one of the most important challenges for the Kishida administration and I strongly think that I must resolve the issue myself,” Kishida added.

The prime minister stressed that it is important for Japan and North Korea to build a relationship between their leaders.

“I’m resolved to face North Korean leader Kim Jong Un unconditionally,” Kishida said.

Sakie Yokota, the 85-year-old mother of Megumi Yokota, who was kidnapped by the reclusive nation at the age of 13, shared a story from a former North Korean agent that Megumi was placed in the hold of a ship and that she kept scratching the wall while crying out for help.

“How cruel that is,” Sakie said. “It’s very regrettable that I was only able to raise her for just 13 years,” she said in a shaky voice.

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