TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he would work with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bring home Japanese citizens who were kidnapped by North Korean agents decades ago.
U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet with family members of people abducted by North Korea in Tokyo, Japan May 27, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Trump, on a four-day state visit to Japan, was speaking at a meeting with some of the relatives of people abducted. They were abducted to train North Korean spies, North Korean defectors have said.
Among the relatives Trump spoke to were the mother and brother of Megumi Yokota, who was 13 when she was snatched off a lonely beach on her way home from school and taken to North Korea.
Trump has mentioned Megumi in past speeches, including at the United Nations, and said on Monday the stories of the abductees were very sad.
Megumi’s mother, Sakie Yokota, 83, expressed gratitude to Trump for spending time with them. He met them in late 2017 on a previous trip to Japan.
Since then, Trump has met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un twice, most recently in Vietnam in February.
“We have started to see some tangible progress in things,” Yokota said.
Koichiro Iizuka, who was a toddler abandoned in a creche when his mother was abducted, also offered his thanks but said the families also wanted results.
“We’d like to have our family members come back as soon as possible,” he said.
In 2002, North Korea admitted its agents had kidnapped 13 Japanese decades before. Japan says 17 of its citizens were abducted, five of whom were repatriated. North Korea has said eight are dead and that another four never entered the country.
Abe has vowed not to rest until all the abductees come home and sought Trump’s help on the issue.
Abe recently said he was ready to meet Kim without conditions, a shift from his long-held position of insisting on progress on the abductions before a summit could take place.
No date for a meeting between Abe and Kim has been set.
Reporting by Linda Sieg and Elaine Lies; Editing by Robert Birsel