(Sankei: February 9, 2016 – p. 2)
Following North Korea’s launch of the long-range ballistic missile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Feb. 8 regarding Japan’s unilateral sanctions against the DPRK, “We will swiftly discuss specific measures and take firm and resolute actions.” He had every reason to make the remarks.
Actions should follow words. The unilateral sanctions should include the reinstatement of the previous sanctions lifted following North Korea’s promise that the country would reinvestigate the abductions of Japanese. The government, without hesitation, should implement its unilateral sanctions.
“Dialogue and pressure” and “action for action” are the diplomatic principles in dealing with North Korea. Now is the time for the government to put pressure on the DPRK. North Korea has made no progress in the reinvestigation of abductees. This should justify Japan’s unilateral sanctions and should lead to rescuing the abductees.
There have been chances for the government to reinstate the previously lifted sanctions or to impose new ones unilaterally against North Korea. Last July, the DPRK one-sidedly notified Japan that Pyongyang will postpone reporting the results of the reinvestigation to Japan. The Headquarters for North Korean Abductions of the Liberal Democratic Party put together a proposal for strengthening sanctions and submitted it to the government; however, the administration put off the proposal.
When the DPRK conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 this year, Abe referred to the possible enhancement of Japan’s unilateral sanctions, emphasizing “resolute measures.” But while the government was twiddling its thumbs, North Korea went ahead with the launch of the long-range ballistic missile.
Some voiced opposition to Japan’s unilateral sanctions by saying, “North Korea will close the door to dialogue and the resolution of the abduction issue will be delayed,” or “Without China’s participation, Japan’s unilateral sanctions will be ineffective.”
Is this really the case? The abductees’ family members, who long for the abductees’ return more than anyone else, have called for the government to slap stricter sanctions on the DPRK. This is because those family members are well aware that Pyongyang will not respond unless Japan puts pressure on or takes strong measures against the country.
“I feel the DPRK makes light of the international community including Japan,” said Shigeo Iizuka, the representative of the Association of the Family of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, “Without stricter sanctions, North Korea will not decide to return the abductees.”
It is true that in order to make sanctions more effective, China’s cooperation is essential because the country is North Korea’s important trade partner. That is exactly why Japan needs to make its stance clear by imposing unilateral sanctions against Pyongyang so that Tokyo could call on Beijing for enhancing sanctions at the UNSC.
“We hope Japan’s unilateral sanctions against North Korea will precede the UNSC’s sanctions,” said Iizuka on Feb. 8 to Katsunobu Kato, the minister in charge of the abduction issue.
When Japan takes stronger actions against North Korea, it will also be necessary to ensure that robust security arrangements based on the Japan-U.S. security alliance are in place.