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Former top diplomat: Japan should play active role in North Korea’s denuclearization

By former Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka

Interviewed by political reporter Hiroki Takao


It was good for Japan that President Donald Trump announced the cancellation of the U.S.-DPRK summit. While Trump made the decision to hold the summit talks based on instinct, he became more sober about the idea in light of North Korea’s fierce reaction, realizing that “denuclearization will not be easy.” If he had gone into the summit with the exalted feeling that “peace will come to the Korean Peninsula and I’m going to receive a Nobel Peace Prize,” he might have concluded a denuclearization agreement with no real substance.


It is not possible to achieve complete denuclearization through just one U.S.-DPRK summit. The first step is to agree on the complete elimination of all North Korean nuclear weapons, facilities, and fuel. It will take time to undertake the actual processes of elimination. Therefore, whether a deadline for “denuclearization talks” can be set at the summit is also important.


Japan needs to participate in the denuclearization negotiations expected to take place after the U.S.-DPRK summit. I suggest that Japan call for a six-party foreign ministerial under the old Six-Party Talks framework consisting of Japan, the ROK, the U.S., China, Russia, and North Korea. If Japan does not play an active role, it is in danger of being “kept out of the loop” even though it is a party to the nuclear and missile issues, as well as the abduction issue.


It is of great significance that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is able to advise Trump directly. He has been successful in influencing North Korea’s actions through the U.S. It is important for Japan to further spread its diplomatic wings to explain Japan’s position to China, Russia, and other countries to seek understanding for this position.


North Korea is seeking guarantees for the Kim Jong Un regime and economic construction.The  economic cooperation that Japan will provide after the abduction, nuclear, and missile issues are resolved and the normalization of diplomatic relations are extremely significant. Japan and North Korea are well aware of each other’s positions, so it is completely conceivable for a summit meeting to take place very quickly.

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