Japan should patiently press issue of abductions with North Korea
The government is expected to move the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents forward by using the fact that a high-level meeting has been held between Tokyo and Pyongyang as leverage.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met his North Korean counterpart, Ri Su Yong, on the sidelines of meetings held by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Malaysia.
Kishida protested to Ri during their talks that although Pyongyang has conducted reinvestigations on the abduction of Japanese nationals by its agents for more than a year, it has not reported any results. Kishida called it “regrettable” and asked the North Korean government again to send all the abduction victims home as soon as possible.
Ri told him that his government has been reinvestigating the incidents sincerely based on the agreement made between Tokyo and Pyongyang.
Only North Korean leader Kim Jong Un can make a political decision to clarify the whole picture of the abductions, which are a state crime, and allow the victims to come home quickly.
In that sense, it is meaningful that Kishida could directly tell Ri, a powerful figure allegedly close to Kim, the importance of solving the abduction issue.
It is important not to make the foreign ministerial meeting between Japan and North Korea a one-time event but to connect it to the progress of the reinvestigation.
Instead of only a brief contact, Ri agreed this time to 30-minute-long talks with his Japanese counterpart.
Pyongyang intends to force Japan to relax sanctions and extend food aid to North Korea in return for the reinvestigation. It apparently wants to avoid international isolation by maintaining talks with Japan.
Strategic move necessary
The government must make a strategic move that no longer allows North Korea to play for time or maneuver cleverly.
Pyongyang claims that it has been conducting a comprehensive reinvestigation of the abductions, including issues related to remains of Japanese victims. However, the priority of the reinvestigation should be on the abduction victims who cannot come home yet.
If the North Koreans remain unable to report even information about the fate of the abductees, resumption of sanctions, which were lifted last year, and introduction of new measures such as prohibition of money transfers to North Korea cannot be avoided.
The government should strongly urge North Korea to report on the progress of the reinvestigation. One option might be setting a new deadline for progress.
In Malaysia, Kishida also held separate talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se, both of whom also attended the ASEAN meetings.
In reference to a statement Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is going to issue to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Wan said that he expected Abe to “face history with a responsible attitude.” Yun said he expects Abe to “reconfirm the perception of history held by past cabinets.” Kishida replied to them that the Abe Cabinet will “succeed the positions of the past cabinets in general.”
The Advisory Panel on the History of the 20th Century and on Japan’s Role and World Order in the 21st Century submitted a report to the prime minister that it compiled after discussing the planned statement. “Japan expanded its aggression” after the 1931 Manchurian Incident, the panel said in the report. “Based on the deep remorse [for the war], Japan has been reborn as a country that is completely different from what it was … ”
In the planned statement, the prime minister should review Japan’s past based on the perception of history presented in the report and clearly announce his will to build future-oriented relations with both China and South Korea.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 8, 2015)