Govt Must Do Everything Possible to Resume Dialogue

People abducted by North Korea and the families waiting for their return are aging. The government must do everything it can to resolve the situation.

A national rally has been held in Tokyo to demand the rescue of the abductees. This is a regular gathering of the victims’ family association and support organizations.

Sakie Yokota, 87, mother of abductee Megumi Yokota, said at the rally: “I can’t imagine how many people are suffering in North Korea. I want to bring them all back.”

Sakie Yokota and Akihiro Arimoto, the 94-year-old father of Keiko Arimoto, are the only two members of the abductees’ parents’ generation who are still alive. Time is running out.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also attended the rally, where he said, “We will hold high-level discussions under my direct supervision to realize a summit meeting as soon as possible,” emphasizing his intention to accelerate arrangements toward a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Kishida previously expressed a desire to meet unconditionally with Kim, but no progress has been made. Therefore, the prime minister must have been seeking to first build momentum for dialogue by clarifying his intention to take the initiative in high-level talks between Japan and North Korea.

Two days after Kishida made this announcement, North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency reported a statement from North Korea’s vice foreign minister saying, “If Japan tries to makes a new decision … and seeks a way out for improving the relations, there is no reason for the DPRK and Japan not to meet.”

North Korea has refused to engage in dialogue with Japan since 2016, when it unilaterally declared that the reinvestigation of the abduction issue was being suspended.

The recent unusual statement by North Korea probably reflects that economic activities have been stagnant due to the COVID-19 pandemic and food shortages are becoming more serious.

However, North Korea also reiterated in the statement its position that the issue of the abductions had been resolved. Japan cannot accept this, and the future of the issue is uncertain.

North Korea claims that eight of the unreturned abductees are dead and four did not enter North Korea. Pyongyang’s explanations are not credible, due to such matters as it providing the cremated remains of different people in previous investigations. Launching a new probe is essential.

Coordination with countries concerned will also be necessary to make progress on the abduction issue in the future.

At last month’s Japan-South Korea summit in Hiroshima, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol expressed support for Japan’s position on the matter. The government must also step up pressure on the United States and China regarding this issue.

North Korea announced that it will soon relaunch a ballistic missile, which it calls a rocket to put a “military reconnaissance satellite” into space, saying it failed to launch a satellite.

A satellite could fall into Japanese territory, including its territorial waters. It makes no sense for North Korea to threaten Japan’s security while hinting at dialogue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 4, 2023)