Devise strategy for settling N. Korea abduction issue through diplomacy

The Yomiuri ShimbunHow should efforts be made to resolve the problem over the abduction of Japanese nationals by utilizing an opportunity arising from ongoing major changes in the North Korean situation? The problem must be grappled with through all-out diplomatic efforts by Japan.

A summit meeting between North and South Korea has been set for April 27, while China and the North have started moving to improve their relations. Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, is stepping up his dialogue offensive.

By carefully watching the moves of each nation, the Japanese government should take measures appropriate to the situation. Summit talks between Japan and North Korea will likely come into view sooner or later.

The goal, first and foremost, is to reach a comprehensive solution to the North’s nuclear and missile problem and the abduction issue. A hasty and ill-prepared approach toward the summit talks could be taken advantage of by North Korea. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had every reason to say, “There’s no point in merely having a meeting.”

Despite pledging to reinvestigate the fate of abduction victims and others in 2014, North Korea unilaterally called off the probe in 2016.

To prevent the North from taking dishonest actions and pave the way for resolving the abduction issue, it is necessary to devise a precise strategy and make careful preparations.

The Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration of 2002 was agreed upon between then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the late General Secretary Kim Jong Il. With the abduction issue in mind, the declaration stated that North Korea would take “appropriate measures,” and that Japan would extend economic assistance to the North after their diplomatic relations were normalized.

How to treat the declaration will be one of the themes to be addressed in future Japan-North Korea talks.

Sync Japan-U.S. policies

What is important is to make North Korea understand the significance of settling pending bilateral problems and normalizing its ties with Japan, thereby directing the isolated nation to the negotiating table.

In an emergency meeting, the families of abductees, among others, demanded the return home of all victims. Their ardent wish should be fulfilled.

A pressing task facing our nation is to adjust its policies toward the North accordingly with those of the United States.

The prime minister will visit the United States from April 17 to 20, during which he is scheduled to hold talks with U.S. President Donald Trump. He intends to urge Trump to take up the abduction issue during a summit meeting scheduled to take place between the United States and North Korea by the end of May. By utilizing his personal relationship of trust with Trump, the prime minister should obtain support and cooperation from the U.S. president.

The prime minister should also explain the need of removing threats not only from North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles but also from its short- and intermediate range missiles, all of which could reach Japan.

Trump has referred to the possibility of reducing or withdrawing U.S. forces stationed in South Korea. If such a scenario transpires, it could destabilize the region and affect Japan’s security. It is indispensable for the prime minister to convey such concerns to Trump so they have a shared awareness regarding the matter.

It is one of North Korea’s old ploys to hint at making concessions and demand rewards in return, only to eventually go back on its promises. It is essential not to fall into such a trap.

It is necessary for Japan and the United States to take the initiative in maintaining international efforts to contain North Korea until that country reverses its policy, and produce specific results.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 8, 2018)Speech


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