Govt must make every possible effort to resolve abduction issue

For the Japanese victims of kidnapping by North Korea and the families waiting for their return to Japan, it has been too long. The Japanese government must make every possible diplomatic effort to break the deadlock over the issue.

Sept. 17 marks 20 years since former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited North Korea in 2002 and talked with then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Koizumi was the first Japanese prime minister to visit North Korea. As a result of getting Pyongyang to acknowledge the abductions, five of the victims returned home. Their family members in North Korea also gradually returned to Japan.

However, nothing has been accomplished since then. The government has recognized 17 Japanese nationals as abductees taken by North Korea. Of the 12 who have not returned to Japan, North Korea has claimed that eight died, including Megumi Yokota, and four did not enter North Korea.

Pyongyang’s explanation lacks credibility because when it provided the “remains” of supposedly deceased abductees, it was found that they were not those of the individuals in question. The North’s insincere response is inexcusable.

The 2002 Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration states that Japan will extend economic assistance to North Korea after the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two nations. The Japanese government has tried to make progress on the abduction issue by expressing its intention to support North Korea, which is in a difficult situation.

One of the reasons why such a strategy has not produced tangible results is that China and Russia have become loopholes in economic sanctions against North Korea.

The involvement of Beijing and Moscow has been highlighted in ship-to-ship transfers through which North Korean vessels smuggle fuel and other materials in international waters.

In May, China and Russia jointly vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have tightened sanctions against North Korea. It was an extremely irresponsible move that can be said to disregard past sanctions resolutions they had supported.

Japan should play a leading role in getting the international community to unite to increase pressure on North Korea.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has expressed willingness to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, without setting any conditions. How will Kishida realize a summit meeting between the leaders of the two countries?

At the 2018 U.S.-North Korea summit and the 2019 China-North Korea summit, U.S. and Chinese leaders raised the abduction issue with Kim as a result of Japan’s efforts.

The Japanese government must make full use of a variety of channels to find a starting point for achieving a summit meeting between Japan and North Korea.

There is not much time left for the immediate family members of abduction victims. Megumi’s mother, Sakie, and Keiko Arimoto’s father, Akihiro, are the only surviving parents of unrepatriated victims. “Why can’t they be saved? I want the government to take action,” Sakie has said.

According to a Cabinet Office survey, interest in the abduction issue among people in their 20s and younger is extremely low. To prevent the heinous abductions from fading from memory, it is hoped that the government will continue its educational and public relations efforts.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 16, 2022)