Prime Minister Kishida Fumio says he will not rule out any option to realize the early return of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea, including providing humanitarian assistance to the country.
He made the remarks at a meeting with a group of abductees' families on Wednesday. The leader of the group, Yokota Takuya, and others handed Kishida the group's new action policy compiled on Sunday.
In the policy, the families say they will not oppose humanitarian aid to North Korea, if the country allows all the abductees to return while their parents are still alive.
This is the first time the group's policy has referred to humanitarian assistance.
Kishida said the abductions are a serious humanitarian issue with a time constraint and no reprieve is allowed.
He said it is important that Japan takes the initiative. He said he is determined to face directly with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without attaching any condition.
Referring to the group's policy on humanitarian aid, Kishida said he needs to take the families' appeal seriously. He said he will continue to do his utmost.
After the meeting, Yokota said the parents of the abductees are now in their 80s and 90s and they are not in good health. He said the group is facing the harsh reality that there is not much time left.
Yokota said the families are victims and are not in a position to make concessions to North Korea, but they referred to humanitarian assistance because there is not much time left for them.
He expressed his hope that the prime minister will fulfill their wish earnestly.
Japan's government says North Korean agents abducted at least 17 citizens in the 1970s and '80s. Five of them returned to Japan in 2002, but the whereabouts of other 12 remain unknown.