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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Expert: Japan should shift to dialogue policy with North Korea

By Yoshiki Mine, former Japanese government representative at Japan-DPRK normalization talks

Interviewed by Izumi Sakurai


The agreement signed at the U.S.-DPRK summit was a comprehensive document which lacked details on denuclearization. It also failed to produce a declaration on the “end” of the Korean War as previously stated. President Donald Trump by chance revealed that there was not enough time. I would give the summit a mark of 60 out of 100. However, the final grade cannot be determined until Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the North Koreans work out the details.


Normally in diplomacy, working-level officials would work out the details before the leaders actually meet. I have witnessed many such cases. The present case in which the leaders met first was extremely unusual.


While the U.S. and North Korea have different political regimes, President Trump and Workers’ Party of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un are similar in their preference for top-down decision-making. The leaders meeting first to move the diplomatic process forward is meaningful because unusual methods are necessary to dissolve the accumulated “mass of distrust.” I think the two leaders were able to build trust to a certain extent by meeting face-to-face and eating together. This is a good thing.


The agreement between the U.S. and North Korea on the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” was an ambiguous one. The process of complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID) is a complex one that would take a tremendous amount of time. The two countries will now be put to the test on whether they will be able to surpass the goal of “abandonment of all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” set in the joint statement of 2005, which is regarded as the biggest achievement of the Six Party Talks.


There was a lot of talk about the possibility of a U.S. military attack on North Korea from summer to fall last year. During that period of tension, Japan should have urged the U.S. to hold dialogue with North Korea.


The Abe administration has strongly advocated applying pressure on North Korea and stated that it is in full agreement with the U.S. But is that true? Trump is now avoiding using the term “maximum pressure.”


North Korea has clearly made a strategic shift. Progress has been made in inter-Korean relations, and China-DPRK relations have improved. A major seismic change is taking place in East Asia. Japan’s diplomacy should also shift to a dialogue policy.


The Japanese government is seeking the cooperation of the ROK and the U.S. on the abduction issue. Trump also raised the abduction issue at the summit. However, North Korea’s position is that this issue has already been resolved while Japan asserts that reinvestigation is necessary. The only way to resolve this contradiction is direct dialogue between the Japanese and DPRK leaders. (Slightly abridged)

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