Twenty-one years have passed since Pyongyang first admitted to the abductions of Japanese nationals at a landmark summit. Families of abductees are increasingly losing patience with the lack of progress in reuniting with their loved ones.
On September 17, 2002, Japan's then-Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro and the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il held the two countries' first summit in Pyongyang.
North Korea's admission of abductions at the summit led to the return of five Japanese nationals. They are among the 17 citizens whom the Japanese government says were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.
Many others, although not officially recognized, are suspected of having been taken to North Korea.
Over the past 21 years, eight parents of the officially recognized abductees have died, and only two are alive. The mother of abductee Yokota Megumi is 87. The father of Arimoto Keiko is 95.
Megumi's brother, Yokota Takuya, now heads a group formed by the abductees' families. He told reporters that the aging of the parents strikes him as a truly harsh reality. He said he desperately wants his mother and Arimoto's father to be reunited with their children.
Yokota added that major progress cannot be expected unless Japan's prime minister meets face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He called for an early summit, and efforts by the Japanese government to compel the North to return all the abductees.
This year, the families' group said in its action plan that it will not oppose Japan extending humanitarian aid to North Korea if the country allows all abductees to return while the remaining parents are alive.
It was the first time since the group was formed 26 years ago that it referred to possible aid to the North, even with conditions attached.
Prime Minister Kishida Fumio has indicated that he hopes to launch high-level talks with North Korea under his direct supervision, in order to realize a bilateral summit.