PM Hatoyama meets with Families of Abductees

Family members of the vicitims kidnapped by North Korea and members from the supporting organizations met with Prime Minister Hatoyama and Minister of State for the Abduction Issue Hiroshi Nakai on Tuesday, September 28th at the Prime Minister's Office.

Below is on the reports covering this meeting:
LEAD: Hatoyama vows efforts to get back abduction victims+

Sep 29 07:46 AM US/Eastern

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama vowed Tuesday to make efforts to have Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and and are believed to be still living in the reclusive state returned to Japan, according to relatives of the abduction victims who visited the new Japanese leader at his office.

"I am going to tackle this issue in the belief that a new administration will be meaningless if we don't solve this," Hatoyama was quoted by the relatives as telling them in their first meeting since he took office on Sept. 16.

"It is not that easy, but in order for a new administration to demonstrate a politics in which each and every life is cherished, progress must be seen in the abduction issue," Hatoyama told reporters in the evening, referring to the basis of his philosophy, "fraternity."

"This is the issue we must tackle," he said.

The relatives said Hatoyama also notified them that he had sought support on the abduction issue from U.S. President Barack Obama and other foreign leaders when he held bilateral talks with them during his six-day trip to the United States last week.

The 62-year-old Hatoyama, who heads the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, also informed the relatives that Obama promised him the United States will do everything it can do to help get the abduction victims back, according to Shigeo Iizuka, the brother of abduction victim Yaeko Taguchi.

But the prime minister also underlined the importance of Japan committing itself more strongly on the issue, according to Iizuka.

"I told him I'm delighted to feel eagerness" of the new government to address the problem, said Iizuka, who chairs the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea.

Hatoyama also told Iizuka his administration will work hard in cooperation with the South Korean government to invite to Japan former North Korean agent Kim Hyon Hui, who knew Taguchi as a Japanese- language teacher in North Korea and currently lives in the South.

In March, Iizuka and Taguchi's son Koichiro Iizuka met Kim, who was convicted of the 1987 fatal bombing of a South Korean airliner but was freed in 1990 under a presidential pardon, and were able to get a glimpse into how Taguchi spent her life in North Korea.

But Sakie Yokota, mother of abduction victim Megumi Yokota, was less sanguine.

"I don't remember how many times I have come here (the prime minister's office) and how many times I have begged the prime minister for help," she said.

"I have always trusted them (politicians) and expected them to do their best," she said. "I will thank them only when we see actual results."

Pyongyang says Megumi died in North Korea, but her family does not accept the claim.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, who was also at the meeting, said at a press conference, "The Hatoyama Cabinet will do its utmost to resolve the abduction issue as the responsibility of the state."

North Korea promised to set up a panel to reinvestigate the fates of Japanese abductees during bilateral negotiations with Japan in August last year, but no progress has been made on the probe.

Japan has said that at least 17 Japanese were abducted to North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The issue is an emotional one in Japan and has been a major obstacle to the normalization of bilateral ties.

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