Japan abductee kin say mention at US-North Korea talks not enough

TOKYO (AP) – Families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea urged President Donald Trump yesterday to do more than just bring up the issue during his expected talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Trump told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their meeting at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Tuesday that he would “raise” the abductions issue — a top Japanese priority — in his meeting with Kim, expected to take place in May or June.

But Shigeo Iizuka, whose sister was abducted by North Korea about 40 years ago, said the families want real discussions on logistical issues regarding their loved ones’ return. Iizuka also urged Abe to push Trump hard on the issue.

“We want President Trump to not just raise the issue, but make sure to get (Kim’s) firm commitment to let the Japanese go home,” he said. “We have way passed patience for more investigations and paperwork repeated. … We want (Trump) to discuss how North Korea should send home a fair number of Japanese abductees still in that country.”

Pyongyang acknowledged abducting 13 Japanese, while Tokyo maintains North Korea abducted at least 17 in the 1970s and 1980s to train agents in Japanese language and culture to spy on South Korea. Five of them were allowed to return home for short visits in 2002 and have stayed since.

North Korea said eight others died and denies the remaining four entered its territory — results that the families and Japanese officials said cannot be trusted.

Shigeo Iizuka speaks to journalists in front of his house in Ageo, Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo, yesterday. – AP

After decades of waiting with little progress, the ageing families see North Korea’s recent diplomatic moves as a last chance to possibly see their loved ones while they are still alive.

During his two-day meeting with Trump in Florida, Abe also planned to discuss trade, while making sure the president did not leave Japan exposed to any North Korean missile threat that doesn’t affect America.

Japan raised concerns that the US might not press Kim to abandon his short and medium-range missiles, which pose an immediate threat to Japan, as they discussed North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.