Japan Isolated on the Abductees Issue Claim Over the Top

[imText1]On the 9th, the Japanese government announced that it would place an advertisement on TV for 15 days beginning on the 15th, publicizing the aim of resolving the issue of Japanese abductees.

This announcement made one day after the North Korea-Japan working group had dismally concluded in Hanoi, confirms that the Japanese government will but respond with a hard-line policy on the abductees issue.

Japanese Foreign Minister Aso said, “We hope that North Korean officials will examine what the best approach will be to the resolve issues such as the abductees case.” The sincerity of North Korea’s response on the abductees issue will determine whether or not Japan will implement additional sanctions or not.

The Japanese population is showing great support for the government’s hard-line policy on the abductees issue. While it is unlikely that the Abe Administration would respond with a pacifying approach to this issue, it will undoubtedly have a significant impact on future talks and the relationship of the two nations.

◆ Japan alone in fixating over the abductees issue?

As the Japanese government persists with a hard-line response, some argue that Japan is being isolated from the other states of the six party talks.

Executive Director, Gordon Flake of the Mansfield Center for Pacific Affairs said in an interview with Radio Free Asia that Japan will find itself in danger of being isolated if the government does not clearly reveal how it will approach the abductees issue.

In particular, he redirected the breakdown in the normalization of North Korea-Japan relationship talks at Japan’s fixation on the abductees issue and also criticized Japan for its past actions.

While there are rumors to suggest that Prime Minister Abe will amplify his support in the July House of Councilors election as a result of the hard-line policy against North Korea, especially since his popularity had declined following his inauguration, many agree that the issue of Japanese abductees is distinct to politics and rather an overall issue. This simply goes to show how important the abductees issue is amidst Japanese public opinion.

As remarks of Japan’s isolated spread, an organization “The National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea” which advocates rescuing abducted Japanese in North Korea urgently held a meeting in Tokyo and proclaimed, “It is not Japan that is being isolated but Kim Jong Il. The Japanese government should enforce hard-line policies and sanctions on North Korea. They argued that the claims of Japan becoming isolated, was an exaggerated analysis.

Vice-chairman of the organization, Professor Tsutomu Nishioka of Tokyo Christian University prospected that Japan would continue not supporting North Korea with aid without advancements made on Japan’s abductees issue and said that if the other 5 nations of the Feb 13 Agreement acknowledged this, then Prime Minister Abe’s foreign policy would have been successful.

◆ If six party talks become unstable, will Japan take the blame?

In addition to the working group for the normalization of North Korea-Japan relations experiencing a set back, many are concerned that advancements to the six party talks may also take a blow.

Already, the working groups for the normalization of U.S.-North Korea and North Korea-Japan relations have ended with the remaining 3 talks planned to open on the 15th~16th.

While each individual working group may influence the overall progress of the six party talks, there is general consensus that negotiations with North Korea can no longer be postponed because of differences between North Korea-Japan relations.

However, some argue that it was North Korea’s calculative political strategy to weaken Japan on the first day of the six party talks that led to the diplomatic breakdown.

On returning from his visit to the U.S., North Korea’s Foreign Minister asserted that the U.S. had agreed to remove North Korea from the list of terror supporting nations. Nonetheless, the Japanese abductees issue will have an influence on this decision. Realistically, it will be difficult for the U.S. to overlook the appeals by its closest ally in Northeast Asia and in the past the U.S. has portrayed a reverent attitude toward the Japanese government and its position on the abductees issue.

Furthermore, last month, Prime Minister Abe informed former President Cheney who was visiting Japan that the U.S. should not remove North Korea from the list of terror supporting nations until the issue of Japanese abductees had been resolved.

In April, Prime Minister Abe is scheduled to visit the U.S. where he is expected to elicit a promise from the U.S. in support of the abductees issue.