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Expert: Japan’s economic support is trump card for resolving abduction issue

  • June 9, 2018
  • , Yomiuri , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

By Kunihiko Miyake, senior researcher of the Canon Institute for Global Studies


With the U.S.-North Korea summit approaching, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with U.S. President Donald Trump with couldn’t-be-better timing and was able to compare and adjust views between Japan and the U.S.


The two countries are in complete agreement that until North Korea takes concrete actions toward denuclearization, sanctions will be maintained. The reason for President Trump not to use the words “maximum pressure” is a warning to North Korea that “it should know what will happen unless it makes concessions.” This is one negotiation tactic.


President Trump once again promised PM Abe to bring up the abduction issue at the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit. This is because PM Abe has repeatedly instilled the issue in the president. It is also important that Abe made up his mind and conveyed to the international community that the abduction issue will finally be tackled by the parties involved, Tokyo and Pyongyang. It appears that PM Abe has done everything he can before the scheduled U.S.-DPRK summit.


No matter what the actual outcome of the U.S.-North Korea summit will be, the two countries will not say “the summit was a failure.” It is possible that the summit may not go beyond a symbolic agreement to end the Korean War. Two main focuses of the summit are: (1) what Workers’ Party of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un will say about denuclearization and (2) what written documents will the two leaders produce.


We cannot hope for immediate progress in the abduction issue. As North Korea has maintained its stance that “the abduction issue was already resolved,” it is perhaps holding as its trump card making concessions on this issue. On the other hand, economic support for the DPRK is the Japanese government’s last resort toward resolving the abduction issue. After the U.S.-North Korea summit, bargaining and “locking swords” between Japan and the DPRK will begin in earnest.


The view that Japan is “out of the loop” on North Korea is completely wrong. It goes without saying that North Korea will eventually approach Japan for economic support. Now is the time for Japan, keeping the resolution of the abduction issue firmly in mind, to think hard about when and how it should use its economic power. That is the most important thing to do.

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