Thursday, November 19, 2009


Sunday, Nov. 15, 2009

Abductees' kin hail Obama's North stance
Kyodo News

Relatives of people abducted by North Korea praised U.S. President Barack Obama's speech Saturday for delivering a strong, clear message that the matter should be settled.

"He sent a clear message to North Korea and it meant that (Pyongyang) needs to change its approach to international society," said Shigeru Yokota, whose daughter, Megumi, was taken to the reclusive country in 1977 at age 13.

Yokota, who turned 77 on Saturday, and his wife, Sakie, 73, were among invitees to Suntory Hall in Tokyo where Obama touched on the abduction issue in a major address on his first trip to Asia since taking office in January.

"The path for North Korea to realize this future is clear: a return to the six-party talks; upholding previous commitments, including a return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; and the full and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Obama said.

"And full normalization with its neighbors can only come if Japanese families receive a full accounting of those who have been abducted," he said.

Sakie Yokota said she hopes the North will take Obama's speech seriously.

"It was a strong message and I'm pleased with it," she said. "Obama took up the abduction issue with impressive words that clearly showed his policy. I feel things will start moving in the right direction."

Obama's remarks on North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals came in his first major speech about his foreign policy on Asia, in which he also pledged to strengthen the relationships between the United States and other Asia-Pacific nations.

"We will do so through our close friendship with Japan — which will always be a centerpiece of our efforts in the region," Obama told the audience of about 1,500 people, which included invitees from the political and business circles, as well as traditional Japanese arts.

Among the lawmakers in the audience, Deputy Prime Minister Naoto Kan of the Democratic Party of Japan described Obama's speech as "impressive."

"I was impressed with the way he made clear that the United States places importance on its ties with the Asia-Pacific region," Kan said of the speech, which also stated that the U.S. commitment to Japan's and Asia's security is "unshakable."