US President Joe Biden met Monday with families of Japanese nationals who were abducted by North Korea decades ago, showing their support for efforts to return their loved ones.
Families say Biden talked to each of them and listened to his stories as his hopes faded from North Korea’s ever-increasing missile sands nuclear development.
Who is the Japanese kidnapped from North Korea?
Japan says North Korea abducted at least 17 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. Twelve are missing.
They include schoolchildren and others living on the coast of Japan. Many were built in small boats and taken to North Korea by sea.
Why were they abducted?
North Korea clearly wanted to train spies in Japanese language and culture or steal their identities, so agents could mainly disguise themselves as Japanese for espionage, targeting South Korea.
After admitting that she abducted 13 Japanese in 2002, North Korea apologized and allowed Ivory to return home. It said eight others had died, and four others denied having entered her territory. It has promised re-investigation, but has not announced the results.
Japan says North Korea has refused to send others home because they may disclose unfavorable information about the country.
How did Biden visit his families?
Koichiro Aizuka, 45, whose mother was abducted in 1978 and raised by his uncle, said, “I’m grateful that President Biden listened to each of our stories sincerely,” and promised his support.
86-year-old Saki Yokota, whose 13-year-old daughter, Megumi, was abducted from Japan’s north coast in 1977 while returning home from school, said Biden was on his knees listening to him and as a parent who had lost two children. He understands her pain. “It really cheered me up,” said Yokota, whose husband died two years ago. “I have asked for the President’s support to have all of our loved ones back.”
Biden’s show of solidarity has reassured families and highlighted North Korean human rights violations, said his son, Takuya Yokota, who heads the families of the abducted families.
Where does the problem stand?
The Japanese government has made the matter a political priority and has urged North Korea to immediately return all remaining abductors. Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said he is willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without prerequisites, but has seen no progress.
Many elderly relatives say it’s time to visit their loved ones.
Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic relations, and efforts to resolve the problem have largely stalled for nearly a decade as Japan imposes sanctions on North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and response.