TOKYO — Families of Japanese abducted by North Korea decades ago urged Japan’s leader on Friday to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to help win the abductees’ release during a possible summit with North Korea’s leader.
Trump has said he will meet Kim Jong Un by the end of May, though North Korea hasn’t directly commented on a message from a South Korean envoy that Kim wants to meet Trump.
Also Friday, a senior Chinese official briefed South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul on the outcome of President Xi Jinping’s meeting this week with Kim in Beijing. Moon and Kim are scheduled to meet on April 27.
The abductees’ families urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to seek Trump’s help because this could be their last chance to win their loved ones’ release. Abe plans to visit the U.S. in April for talks with Trump.
“Please ask President Trump to discuss (with Kim) how to achieve the abductees’ return,” Shigeo Iizuka, 79, head of a group representing the families of abduction victims, told Abe. “We would like President Trump to ask Kim Jong Un to make specific arrangements for the abductees to return home.”
Abe promised to do so, saying, “We should not let the abduction issue, which is very important to us, be left behind.”
Iizuka’s younger sister, Yaeko Taguchi, then 22, was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1978, leaving behind two children — a baby boy and a girl — at a nursery. Iizuka adopted the boy and raised him as his fourth child, and the girl was adopted by an aunt.
Taguchi’s whereabouts weren’t known for nearly a quarter century until North Korea, after years of denials, acknowledged in 2002 abducting 13 Japanese citizens. Japan says North Korea has abducted at least four more Japanese.
North Korea allowed five of them to visit Japan in 2002 — and they stayed — but said the other eight had died, though their families say what the North said cannot be trusted. North Korea also promised a re-investigation of the eight and set up a committee, but its results were never presented as the North’s missile and nuclear threats escalated.
Iizuka said he and the other families want Abe to “make use of each upcoming meeting” to achieve the abductees’ return.
“We see a big chance coming up, and there will be no greater chance than this,” he said.
In Seoul, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s powerful political bureau who was sent as Xi’s special envoy, met with Moon and delivered a detailed explanation of the talks between Xi and Kim, according to Moon’s office. The office said Yang confirmed Chinese intentions to “actively cooperate” in seeking the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Yang earlier in the day met with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa, who said it was encouraging that Kim during his talks with Xi expressed a “firm willingness” for dialogue with Seoul and Washington. Yang told Kang that Beijing hopes the Kim-Xi meeting will prove helpful to the success of talks between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington, according to Seoul’s Foreign Ministry.
Ahead of Moon’s planned summit with Kim in late April, a group of 160 South Korean musicians is performing in North Korea this Sunday and Tuesday. The group, which includes some of South Korea’s biggest pop singers, is to fly to the North on Saturday.
Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul contributed to this story.
Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi
Find her work at https://www.apnews.com/search/mari%20yamaguchi