Asia-Pacific

Trump says will work with Japan's Abe to bring abductees home from North Korea

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Japan's Prime Minister says a face-to-face meeting with the North Korean leader is the only way to solve the emotional issue of the abductions of Japanese citizens.

US President Donald Trump said he would work with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bring home Japanese citizens who were kidnapped by North Korean agents decades ago.

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.

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Trump gets red carpet welcome at Japan's Imperial Palace
Trump gets red carpet welcome at Japan's Imperial Palace

Japan suspects dozens of people who are still missing were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s to train their own spies in the Japanese language and culture.

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.

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Trump presents sumo champion with trophy on Japan visit
Trump presents sumo champion with trophy on Japan visit

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.

"I feel I have to meet face-to-face with Chairman Kim without attaching any preconditions and exchange frank views with him," said Shinzo Abe, who now wants to be known as Abe Shinzo

"President Trump... said he will give full support needed for that."

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.

Abe acknowledged he had "no specific plan" to meet the North Korean leader.

"But there is no change in Japan's policy that we will seek to resolve the issue of abduction, nuclear and missiles comprehensively and to settle the unfortunate past to normalise" diplomatic ties, he added.

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