Parents of Japan kidnap victim hail meeting with grandchild

Parents of Japan kidnap victim hail meeting with grandchild
Sakie Yokota, mother of Megumi Yokota who was abducted by North Korea agents at age 13 in 1977, answers questions from the media with her husband during a news conference in Kawasaki.

TOKYO - The ageing mother of a Japanese woman kidnapped and taken to North Korea as a schoolgirl on Monday hailed a "miraculous" first meeting in Mongolia with her long-lost granddaughter.

Megumi Yokota who was only 13 years old when she was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1977 on her way home from school.

The secretive state insists that Yokota killed herself in 1994, an explanation that Tokyo has long refused to accept.

Yokota's parents - father Shigeru, 81, and mother Sakie, 78 - spent five days last week with their granddaughter, 26-year-old Kim Eun-Gyong, and her family in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator, Japan's foreign ministry said Sunday.

"What we have dreamt about for such a long time has come true - they were miraculous days for us," Yokota's mother told a press briefing Monday near Tokyo.

"We had hoped to meet her as a family... It was a pleasing and wonderful moment."

Yokota became a symbol of a bitter bilateral row over Pyongyang's abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, mainly aimed at training North Korean spies in Japanese language and customs.

Pyongyang admitted in 2002 that it abducted about a dozen Japanese nationals over the two decades, and said eight of them had died, a claim rejected by Tokyo.

The kidnapped woman's father said he was happy to meet Kim and her baby girl - their great grandchild - whom they were told was born in May last year.

"We had seen her (Kim) many times on television, but it was the first time to meet her in person," he said.

Girl's fate still a mystery

The elderly couple said they did not ask about the fate of their daughter Megumi. Japan's Jiji Press news agency reported Sunday that Kim reiterated to the Yokotas that her mother was dead.

The couple had previously refused to meet Kim for fear of being used as a propaganda tool by Pyongyang to establish their daughter's death as fact.

Yokota was abducted by North Korean agents in the city of Niigata by the Sea of Japan (East Sea) and taken to North Korea by boat.

In 2004, North Korea handed over to Japan cremated remains it claimed were Yokota's. However, Tokyo said DNA tests conducted in Japan proved the claim to be untrue.

"We did not want to make the meeting with her (Kim) anything that involves political matters," the abducted woman's mother said Monday.

"She has grown up in that country. We weren't sure how much of the truth she could tell us."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has long championed to solve the kidnapping issue by taking a hawkish policy against the secretive state, said he was "moved" by news of the meeting.

"I think it was a really good thing that (their meeting) came true, thanks to the cooperation from the Mongolian government," he told reporters.

"I am resolved to make my utmost effort towards entirely solving the abduction issue."

The two countries, which have no diplomatic relations, relaunched Red Cross talks on humanitarian issues this month following a two-year break.

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