US officials back stance for early resolution of N.Korea abductions: relatives

Two relatives of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea say they gained understanding and support from senior US officials for their stance of seeking early return of the remaining abductees.

Yokota Takuya and Iizuka Koichiro spoke on Sunday after returning to Japan from a series of meetings with US figures in Washington.

Yokota heads a group of Japanese abductees' families and is the younger brother of abductee Yokota Megumi. Iizuka is the son of abductee Taguchi Yaeko.

They met senior US officials such as National Security Council Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific Kurt Campbell and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman as well as members of Congress.

Yokota and Iizuka revealed that they spent much time explaining to the US side that the group will not object to the Japanese government providing humanitarian assistance to North Korea if all the remaining abductees are repatriated to Japan while parents are alive.

The group unveiled the stance for the first time earlier this year, urging the Japanese government to redouble its efforts to bring the remaining abductees back home. The group also called on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to immediately allow all the abductees to return home.

Only two of the missing abductees' parents are alive, the father of Arimoto Keiko and the mother of Yokota Megumi. Arimoto's father is in his 90s while Yokota's mother is in her late 80s.

Yokota and Iizuka also disclosed that Sherman expressed her intention to work with the Japanese government to hold an official meeting on North Korea's human rights record at the UN Security Council.

Yokota said the US side did not oppose his group's posture of placing priority on having the abduction issue resolved while allowing it to be handled separately from North Korea's nuclear and missile matters.

He said the visit to the US is nothing but a simple milestone and that he hopes Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio will take specific steps toward bringing the remaining abductees back home.

The Japanese government says at least 17 citizens were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. Five returned in 2002, but the other 12 are still unaccounted for.