President Joe Biden has met with families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago to show his support for their efforts to win the return of their loved ones
TOKYO — US President Joe Biden met on Monday with families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago to show his support for their efforts to win the return of their loved ones.
The families said Biden spoke to each of them and listened to their stories, encouraging them as their hopes faded due to North Korea’s escalating development of missiles and nuclear devices.
WHO ARE THE JAPANESE DESIGNED BY NORTH KOREA?
Japan says North Korea kidnapped at least 17 Japanese citizens, possibly many more, in the 1970s and 1980s. Twelve remain missing.
Among them are schoolchildren and others who live along the Japanese coast. Many were bundled up in small boats and taken by sea to North Korea.
WHY WERE THEY DESIGNED?
North Korea apparently wanted them to train spies in Japanese language and culture, or steal their identities so that agents could impersonate Japanese for espionage primarily targeting South Korea.
After North Korea admitted in 2002 that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese, it apologized and allowed five to return home. It said eight others had died and denied that the other four had entered the territory. It promised a re-examination, but never released the results.
Japan says North Korea has refused to send the others home for fear they would reveal inconvenient information about the country.
HOW WAS BIDEN’S MEETING WITH THE FAMILIES?
Koichiro Iizuka, 45, whose mother was kidnapped in 1978 and raised by his uncle, said he was “grateful that President Biden listened sincerely to each of our stories” and pledged his support.
Sakie Yokota, 86, whose 13-year-old daughter, Megumi, was abducted in 1977 on Japan’s northern coast on her way home from school, said Biden knelt to listen to her and told her that as a parent of those two children, he has lost him. understands her pain. “That really cheered me up,” said Yokota, whose husband died two years ago. “I have asked the president for his support so that we can all get our loved ones back.”
Her son, Takuya Yokota, who heads the family of the abductees, said Biden’s expression of solidarity gave the families courage and also highlighted the human rights violations in North Korea.
WHERE IS THE PROBLEM?
The Japanese government has made the issue a political priority and has demanded that all remaining abductees be returned immediately. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said he is willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un without conditions, but no progress has been made.
Many elderly relatives say they are running out of time to see their loved ones.
Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic ties, and efforts to resolve the issue have stalled for nearly a decade due to North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles and Japan’s imposition of sanctions in response. The World War II compensation issues between the two sides also remain unresolved.