Thu, Jun 07, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Japanese woman hopes summit will bring news of missing identical twin

Reuters, KOFU, Japan

It has been more than 30 years since the identical twin sister of Japanese teacher Misa Morimoto vanished, believed to have been abducted by North Korea.

Hopes for her return have often surged and ebbed since, tracing the ups and downs of ties between Tokyo and Pyongyang.

Now, Morimoto, 54, is cautiously optimistic that a planned summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Tuesday next week could bring news of the sister who resembled her so much that few could tell them apart.

In 2002, North Korea said it had kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train them as spies. Five returned to Japan, although Tokyo suspects hundreds more might have been taken.

In 2014, Pyongyang promised new information about the Japanese it had kidnapped, but never made good on the pledge, shattering many relatives’ hopes.

“Four years ago, we all expected everybody would soon come home and we ended up despairing,” Morimoto said at the home where she grew up with her sister Miho in the central Japanese city of Kofu. “So this time, rather than hoping a lot, we’ll just watch to see what happens.”

Miho, who had ambitions of going to university, disappeared on June 4, 1984, after setting out to a library. Her motorbike was found at a nearby train station the next day and her handbag was discovered on an isolated beach, 360km away, near where two abductees were seized.

Morimoto has met other families who believe their loved ones might be in North Korea. She has been struck by the similar aspects of their accounts, such as the remote beach and silent telephone calls to family homes cut off shortly after being answered. On some, Miho’s family heard muffled sobs.

The agenda for the Trump-Kim summit is not known, but Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has urged Trump to keep the abductee issue central to the talks.

Trump has met the families of abductees several times and brought up the issue in speeches.

US pressure could make a difference, Morimoto said.

“To be honest, when Trump became president, I was worried what might happen, but he is a very clear, straightforward person, so his message is probably very easy for North Korea to understand,” she said.

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