May 19 (UPI) -- The families of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the late 1970s called for the government to expedite negotiations for their release on Sunday.
More than 1,000 people attended a meeting in Tokyo where they displayed 400 cardboard boxes containing about 13.4 million signatures collected by the Association of Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea supporting the effort to encourage Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to meet with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un for negotiations.
"We want (the government) to negotiate strongly demanding the return home of all the victims at once," said Takuya Yokota, the brother of one of the abductees.
The family members in attendance expressed concern about the age of the abductees parents, stressing that the government must move quickly to ensure a reunion.
Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga attended the meeting on Sunday, where he said he was willing to enter a meeting with Kim without any preconditions.
The prime minister said that Japan must take the initiative to negotiate the release of the abductees and that the process would not be easy.
He added that U.S. President Donald Trump is interested in helping Japan resolve the issue and plans to meet with the families of the abductees when he visits Japan later this month.