Families of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s on Thursday sought assistance from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to resolve the long-standing issue, noting that the abductees' parents are aging.

Several members of the families' group held talks with the ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, at the Japanese prime minister's office, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi, who doubles as minister in charge of the abduction issue, in attendance.

At the outset of the meeting, Sakie Yokota, the mother of Megumi, who has become a symbol of the abductees, said, "Now that I'm 88 years old, all I want is to see her, even if just for a moment, while I'm still well. I don't need anything else."

Sakie Yokota, whose daughter Megumi was abducted by North Korea in 1977 at age 13, speaks during a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the Japanese prime minister's office in Tokyo on April 18, 2024. (Kyodo)

Megumi was abducted by North Korean agents in 1977 at the age of 13 while on her way home from junior high school in Niigata Prefecture, along the Sea of Japan coast.

Thursday's gathering took place at a time when Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been seeking to meet in person with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in an attempt to secure the return of all the abductees.

North Korea, however, has recently rejected any contact or negotiations with Japan, claiming that the abduction issue has been already settled. Neither Tokyo nor Washington has diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.

At the talks, Thomas-Greenfield said, "The United States stands with all the families, with all of Japan and with the international community in pressing for a resolution that will allow all families separated by the regime's policies to be reunited."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield (4th from front L) meets with Sakie Yokota (3rd from front R) and other family members of Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, at the Japanese prime minister's office in Tokyo on April 18, 2024. (Kyodo)

The ambassador, who is on a trip to South Korea and Japan, stressed Washington's position is "not dependent on any political party or administration," pledging to continue raising the abduction issue at every opportunity and calling for the return of the victims.

After a summit with Kishida in Washington on April 10, which was held during his state visit to the United States, President Joe Biden voiced commitment to backing Japan's efforts to resolve the abduction issue with North Korea.

Megumi's brother Takuya Yokota, who leads the families' group, told Thomas-Greenfield that the United States should maintain economic sanctions on North Korea and strengthen cooperation with Japan until the return of the abductees is realized.

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