United States President Donald Trump, scheduled to visit Japan as a state guest from May 25 to May 28, is expected to meet families of Japanese citizens who were abducted by agents of the North Korean government in the 1970s and 1980s. High expectations have been placed on Mr. Trump to help get all abductees back to Japan.
Sakie Yokota, the mother of one of the abductees, has said the abductions are a “matter that must be resolved with the world working together hand in hand.” She expressed her wishes for the “desire of the families for the immediate return of all abduction victims to be conveyed to the North.”
President Trump has shown his deep understanding of the gravity of the abduction problem more than once. When he made a trip to Japan in November 2017, Mr. Trump met with family members of Japanese abductees, pledging to “work together with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bring them back to Japan.”
During the second U.S.-North Korea summit meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February, Mr. Trump was reported to have pressed Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, to address the abductions issue, stressing there had been “no significant progress” toward its resolution. There was reportedly a tense moment in the Trump-Kim talks with Kim making a point of giving evasive responses over the abductions problem.
Consequently, Chairman Kim acknowledged the “abductions issue” pending between Pyongyang and Tokyo, expressing his readiness to “meet with Prime Minister Abe,” according to knowledgeable sources. It is believed that it was against the background of these developments that Prime Minister Abe recently came out with his willingness to meet with Kim “without preconditions.”
Cooperation from Japan’s ally — with its massive military might — is really encouraging. Fortunately, President Trump, who has shown understanding of the abductions issue, has enjoyed close personal ties with Prime Minister Abe while keeping a channel for direct communication with Chairman Kim.
For the sake of resolving the abduction problem, all available steps should be taken. Ultimately, of course, all abduction victims must be brought home by the hands of the Japanese government itself.
The abductions are egregiously heinous crimes perpetrated by Pyongyang’s agents, who carried away innocent Japanese citizens — including Megumi Yokota, who was abducted in 1977 when she was 13 — bringing them forcibly to North Korea. Although Kim Jong Un’s father, the late Kim Jong Il, who was North Korea’s National Defense Commission chairman, admitted the snatch-and-grab operations and apologized in 2002, most of the victims have yet to be allowed to return home.
Regarding the abductions issue, earlier in May a working group of the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a set of recommendations prodding Pyongyang to take concrete and meaningful steps towards rectifying its violations of the human rights of foreigners, including the Japanese abductees, through such means as immediately returning them to their homelands. North Korea, however, has spurned the U.N. recommendations and continued to reiterate its long-standing position that the issue has already been settled.
North Korea will never be able to chart a bright future for its country so long as Pyongyang fails to solve the abduction problem. Nor will this problem be solved unless Chairman Kim is made to figure out this obvious fact.
Undoubtedly it will take the strong cooperation of Japan and the United States to make this possible.
President Trump’s upcoming visit to Japan is a good opportunity for the Japanese government to send an effective message worldwide on the gravity of resolving the abductions.
(Click here to read the editorial in its original Japanese.)
(Click here to learn more about the subject of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese and other foreign citizens.)
Author: Editorial Board of The Sankei Shimbun