Relatives of Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea about 40 years ago have demanded the swift return of their loved ones.
They made the demand at a large rally on Saturday in Tokyo. The last mass rally took place in October of last year, but the coronavirus pandemic has prevented any since then. Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio took part in the relatives' gathering.
Iizuka Shigeo, the older brother of abductee Taguchi Yaeko, heads a group of those relatives. In his opening remarks, Iizuka said the pandemic has blocked them from their normal activities but that they simply cannot afford to give up now.
He demanded that the government develop a timeline for the return of their loved ones and take specific steps toward that end.
Yokota Takuya, the younger brother of abductee Yokota Megumi, said no one but leader Kim Jong Un can decide anything in North Korea. He said Kishida should face off with Kim with strong determination.
The rally ended by adopting a resolution that urges the government to help return all abductees as soon as possible. The resolution also asks Pyongyang for a commitment to return all abductees.
Kishida responded that resolving the issue is his administration's top priority. He said given some relatives' old age, the issue has to be resolved immediately.
He has apologized for not being able to get any abductee returned since five were brought back from North Korea to Japan in 2002.
He expressed his strong commitment, saying that he must be the one who gets the issue resolved.
Kishida also said cooperation and understanding from the international community are essential. He added he intends to reaffirm the importance of resolving the issue with US President Joe Biden when he has a chance to visit the United States.
Kishida reiterated his determination to meet Kim without conditions, saying that it is important Japan takes the initiative and builds relationships between the leaders of the two nations.