Intransigent N. Korea must be pressed to advance its probe of abductions
Any further continuation of North Korea’s time-buying tactics would be intolerable. The Japanese government must push North Korea to move forward on resolving the problem of having abducted Japanese citizens, with an eye on the possibility of resurrecting and expanding sanctions against Pyongyang.
On July 4 last year, North Korea embarked on a new round of investigations into the fate of Japanese abductees. Pyongyang set the duration of the probes at about one year and committed to providing information on the progress of the investigations on an as-needed basis.
The Japanese government, in return, lifted parts of its sanctions concerning matters such as restrictions on travel between the two countries and a ban on the entry into Japanese ports of North Korean-registered ships.
However, no information has been presented on the safety and other relevant matters regarding the abduction victims.
Pyongyang’ behavior is extremely dishonest . The behavior tramples brazenly on the feelings of the abduction victims’ families and others concerned, who have long been seeking to have them brought back as quickly as possible.
More than three years have passed since Kim Jong Un began leading North Korea. A streak of purges and ousters of high-ranking officials of his regime and his close associates has continued, indicating Kim has still not succeeded in consolidating his power base. Views have been put forth that Kim has still come up short of creating an environment conducive to making an important political decision on the abduction problem.
What should be done to break the impasse? The government is urged to strategically address the challenge to win concessions from Pyongyang through dialogue while increasing pressure on North Korea.
Should there continue to be no progress with North Korea’s investigations, the resurrection of anti-Pyongyang sanctions would be inevitable.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, for that matter, has stressed the government has been “constantly reviewing whatever measures should be the most effective” in dealing with North Korea.
‘Parallel pursuit’ of 2 aims
In late June, the Liberal Democratic Party proposed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that anti-Pyongyang sanctions, such as a ban in principle on money remittances to North Korea, be toughened. Such a proposal is one of the options the government will be able to take.
By accurately assessing how North Korea is going to tackle the abduction problem, Japan should take steps commensurate with Pyongyang’s action. Keeping the principle of “action for action” intact is of great importance.
The pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), which was pressed to vacate its Tokyo headquarters after the building was put up for auction, has managed to remain in the building through indirect resales. Suspicion over the mysterious tactics can hardly be eliminated.
In the case involving the allegedly illegal importing of a shipment of matsutake mushrooms from North Korea, the second son of the head of Chongryon has been arrested and indicted on charges of violating the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law. The law must be rigorously enforced.
It is also essential to broaden the understanding of the international community regarding Pyongyang’s wide-ranging infringements on human rights, including the abductions.
Toward the end of June, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees set up its branch in Seoul for the surveillance of human rights records of North Korea. The opening of the UNCHR branch is expected to produce a certain degree of effect to hold North Korea in check.
North Korea has adopted a policy of a “parallel pursuit” of nuclear weapons development and rebuilding its economy. Pyongyang has also been continuing to take actions that amount to military provocation, such as the announcement in May that it was successful in launching a ballistic missile from a submarine.
It is of dire importance that Japan not weaken the international network of containment toward North Korea. This can be achieved by closely cooperating with the United States and South Korea. Japan should firmly maintain its basic policy of comprehensively resolving the abduction problem, the nuclear and missile programs of Pyongyang.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 3, 2015)