TOKYO (AP) — Families of Japanese who were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s thanked President Donald Trump on Monday for his sympathy and for meeting with them while visiting Japan.
Trump, who is making a four-day state visit, appeared to listen intently to the relatives' accounts of their ordeals, the families said after the meeting.
Shigeo Iizuka, 80, whose sister was abducted in the 1970s, asked Trump to work with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in getting North Korea to return the victims.
"I got the impression that President Trump is really thinking about making a breakthrough on this issue," he said. "I hope President Trump's involvement helps to break the deadlock."
Trump said he supports Abe's intent to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to resolve the issue. Abe renewed his willingness to meet Kim face-to-face without preconditions, such as its denuclearization, to resolve the abduction issue. Abe noted, however, that there currently are no prospects of a summit with Kim.
Sakie Yokota, 83, whose 13-year-old daughter Megumi was abducted in 1977, said Trump gave the families hope for a breakthrough.
"I hope there will concrete progress. I do hope to get our loved ones back, and also want North Korea to become a peace-loving nation," Yokota said.
North Korea has acknowledged abducting 13 Japanese. Japan maintains that the North abducted at least 17 people to train agents in Japanese language and culture to spy on South Korea.
Five of the abductees were allowed to return home for a visit in 2002 and have since stayed. North Korea says eight others died and denies that the other four entered its territory.
Many elderly relatives say they're running out of time to see their loved ones.
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