The Japanese government is arranging a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and the parents of Megumi Yokota, who was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1977, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday.
The meeting will take place during an upcoming visit by the President to Japan and other East Asian countries in November.
Abe announced the plan during an election campaign speech in Niigata Prefecture, where Megumi and her family were living at the time of her abduction 40 years ago.
The Japanese Prime Minister said he proposed the meeting to Trump at a summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last month.
The President will meet Shigeru Yokota, 84, and Sakie Yokota, 81, as well as relatives of other abductees, and has told Abe that he will help in the return of Japanese abductees.
Trump referenced the case of Megumi Yokota during his first speech to the UN General Assembly in September, during which he threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea.
“We know it kidnapped a sweet 13-year-old Japanese girl from a beach in her own country to enslave her as a language tutor for North Korea’s spies,” Trump said.
The Yokotas met with former President Barack Obama when he visited Japan in 2014. Sakie, the mother of Megumi, also met with President George W Bush during a visit to the U.S. in 2006 with other relatives of other victims.
“It’s a big surprise to hear that President Trump is willing to meet us, as we haven’t heard anything from the Japanese government yet,” Sakie Yokota told NK News on Thursday.
“By whatever means necessary, this abduction issue should be solved as soon as possible,” she added. “I hope Trump’s visit to Japan will pave the way to rescue all of the Japanese abductees including Megumi without any further delay.”
Megumi Yokota disappeared on her way home from a junior-high school in Niigata city, about 200 kilometers northwest of Tokyo, on the evening of November 15, 1977.
Two decades later her parents learned she had been abducted by North Korean operatives.
North Korea has claimed Yokota committed suicide in 1994 and returned a set of remains, but a Japanese government DNA test showed the remains could not be hers.
The Japanese government has confirmed that North Korea kidnapped 17 Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s: so far only five have returned and 12 remain unaccounted for.
The abducted Japanese nationals, including Megumi Yokota, are believed to have been forced to teach Japanese language and culture to North Korean intelligence agents for covert operations against South Korea.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Department of Defense
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