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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:52 03/09/2007
News Review #66: September 19, 2002

Japan PM Wins N.Korea Apology, Security Concessions

Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE

"Japan PM Wins N.Korea Apology, Security Concessions"
(by Teruaki Ueno, Reuters) Washington Post

Related Article:

"For some, years of hope end in grief"
(by Sachiko Sakamaki (Special to The Washington Post)) International Herald Tribune


Five alive and eight dead. That was the report provided by North Korea on the fate of Japanese citizens they had abducted, at the historical summit meeting of Mr Koizumi and Kim Jon-Il, North Korea's leader. Considering that the victims were all in their teens and 20s and healthy when kidnapped, and would have been only in their 30s and 40s by now, it is only natural by looking at the number of mortalities to suspect something unusual had happened to them.

Other reports indicate that Kim, at the beginning of the discussions with Mr Koizumi, did not admit that acts of criminal were committed on their part and did not show any sign of apology. It was only after faced with the accusation and resentment by, when Kim came back to the discussion table after the luncheon recess, to admit the wrong doings of his government and expressed apology.

The criminal finally admitting the crime could be considered a step forward from absolute denial, but it would not suffice to serve justice, nor relieve the sorrow of their families. It is therefore the general sentiment of Japanese people that the matter needs a lot more looking into before any progress on the normalization talks is to take place.

Kim also reportedly expressed that such abductions, as well as provocative activities on Japan's coastal waters by their spy ships would be halted. There were comments on more global issues as well, such as nuclear weapons and missile development program. Kim agreed to extend indefinitely the freeze on missile launches that is presently set to expire in 2003. He also agreed to honor the 1994 agreement to allow IAEA inspectors into North Korea.

It would be very nice if things really turn out the way what Kim has said, but their track record warns otherwise, that their words have very rarely been their deeds. There is no need to rush on Japan's part, especially now that the fate of the hostages have become known, we could, and should carefully determine whether North Korea really has acquired a bit of trustworthiness, as they have deceived us on too many occasions in the past. For example, the largest issue for the Japanese, the abductions, is not mentioned in the joint statement signed by both leaders, and it is reported that North Korean media, while reporting the meeting on the top page, has no mention of the abductions issue. Although such information maneuvering is common in that society, caution is needed in pursuing the talks that people there are not informed of certain important facts.

As for Mr Koizumi, he deserves very high praise for his bravery. The unfortunate fate of the victims is certainly not the fault of the prime minister, and if it were not for him, the crime could have been kept uncovered for decades more or even forever. No one, no politician, in the past was able to reflect the feeling many Japanese had shared, that simply there would be no deal with North Korea unless its crimes are squarely dealt with. It is true that the international circumstances may have been in favor of Mr Koizumi, when North Korea was desperate to obtain any sort of food or financial support, as well as seeking means to regain the attention of U.S. But that does not downgrade Mr Koizumi's determined action as a politician.

One of the things become apparent is that Japan's politicians and diplomats had been sending wrong signals to North Korea all these years, that the issue of abductions is negligible for Japan in front of a normalized diplomatic relationship with the great " Democratic People's Republic of Korea." The negotiators assigned to the normalization talks will be required to keep reminding themselves that they are working for the people of Japan. It might worth recalling that it took fourteen years for Japan to normalize diplomatic relations with South Korea, from the beginning of the discussion to the signing of the basic treaty. In haste would be the worst of the tactics Japan could adopt.

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