Families of Japanese abducted by North Korea meet Trump, but want action

TOKYO (Reuters) - Family members of Japanese abducted by North Korea met U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday and welcomed his sympathy for their “very sad” plight, but said it meant nothing unless it led to action to bring home their loved ones.

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Trump has incorporated into his attacks on Pyongyang the story of Megumi Yokota, 13 when she was snatched off a lonely beach by North Korean agents 40 years ago, mentioning her in a September speech at the United Nations.

For his part, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he will not rest until the return of all 13 of those Pyongyang says were kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s to train spies, making the issue a keystone of his political career.

On Monday, Trump met Megumi’s mother Sakie, becoming the third president to do so, as well as the relatives of seven other abductees Pyongyang says are dead - like Megumi, who hanged herself, North Korea says.

“We’ll work together and see if we can do something, now the spotlight is on,” Trump later told a joint news conference with Abe, calling the abductions a “very, very sad thing”.

“Perhaps the regime itself would send them back. I think it would be a tremendous signal if Kim Jong Un would send them back.”

Megumi’s mother and younger twin brothers were later part of a news conference that welcomed Trump’s attention, although cautiously, with several members saying decades had passed and nothing had been done, even by Abe’s government.

“It seemed the president listened carefully to all our stories and was impressed,” said Koichiro Iizuka, an infant abandoned in a creche when his mother, Yaeko Taguchi, was abducted in 1978.

“But if this is all that comes of this meeting, it’s absolutely outrageous,” he added. “It’s how we face the previous neglect and take action that’s important.”

The families can do little, said Megumi’s mother, now 81 and visibly frail.

“This is an issue of politics, of diplomacy,” she said. “All we can say is: please help them.”

Editing by Clarence Fernandez