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Good for Japan!

I'm astonished to read a report on diplomatic negotiations with and over North Korea, in which Japan's approach is questioned by the journalist, who reports that other parties are 'irritated' at Japan's intransigence.

It was one of the most bizarre episodes of the Cold War.

Men, women and children snatched by communist spies and bundled aboard creaking fishing boats in the most mundane circumstances: on the way home from school, on shopping trips, during a romantic stroll along a windswept beach.

Decades later, Japan is still some way off establishing the truth about North Korea’s abductions of at least 17 of its citizens, spirited away between 1977 and 1983 to the world’s most reclusive state.

There, they were employed as mentors to communist agents hoping to pass themselves off as Japanese; some were allegedly murdered so their identities could be used by spies taking part in missions on the other side of the Japan Sea.

While the rest of the world grapples for an appropriate response to modern-day North Korean security threats – a rumoured ballistic missile test in early April and the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons – Japan simply refuses to let the abduction issue die.

Not that there hasn’t been some progress. In 2002, five abductees were allowed to return home after a meeting between the then Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il.

In an extraordinary mea culpa, Kim apologized for the abductions, carried out on his orders during the regime of his father, Kim Il-sung, but insisted that four of the 17 had never entered the country, and that another eight had died.

. . .

Japan, though, is convinced the missing abductees are still alive, and that the North is refusing to release them because they know too much about the regime’s espionage operations.

Tokyo has warned it will never accept a nuclear deal with North Korea that excludes a satisfactory explanation of the abductees’ fates, potentially depriving the North of much-needed food and energy assistance from its wealthy neighbour as a reward for disabling its nuclear capabilities.

But Japan’s hardline approach carries a huge risk. Not only could it find itself diplomatically isolated at the talks as other countries rush to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, it could find itself at odds with its closest ally, the U.S.

Privately, other parties in the talks are irritated by Japan’s refusal to separate the abductions from the nuclear threat. And despite U.S. promises to pursue an all-encompassing resolution to the North Korean question, few expect it to allow differences over the abductions to stand in the way of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

Yet no Japanese administration can afford to make concessions. The abductions have become a cause celebre among many voters, moved by frequent media coverage of distraught relatives begging for their loved ones to be released.

Now the families are pinning their hopes on the Obama administration. “International pressure against the North, particularly from the United States, is indispensable to any resolution,” they said in a recent open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

There's more at the link.

Well, of course Japan's intransigent! If I were Japanese, I'd never let my government have a moment's peace about this. After all, we're talking abduction and murder here! How could anyone with any conscience just ignore it, and let it lie unresolved? If anyone reading this thinks that current political reality trumps past crimes, ask yourself this: how would you feel if your husband, or wife, or son, or daughter, were among those abducted? Changes things, doesn't it?

I sincerely hope that Japan keeps up its pressure on North Korea, and that the other parties to the negotiations don't allow political factors to let the seventeen victims disappear into limbo, their fates forever unknown.


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