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Opinion: Japan, U.S. share “blue” solidarity

By Kensaku Fujiwara

 

Something unusual happened when the Japanese and U.S. leaders met for talks in Washington on April 16. In addition to Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide and other Japanese delegates, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and several other U.S. officials wore “blue ribbon” badges, which symbolize the campaign to bring home all Japanese abducted by North Korea. The Japanese side had not been informed in advance that U.S. representatives would be sporting badges. Although U.S. President Joe Biden did not wear a “blue ribbon” badge, one Japanese delegate said that “many senior U.S. officials wore the badges as though it were a natural thing to do,” thereby expressing appreciation for this U.S. expression of consideration.

 

This was foreshadowed by the 2-plus-2 meeting of the Japanese and U.S. foreign affairs and defense ministers that took place in Tokyo in March. Secretary Blinken attended the meeting wearing the “blue ribbon” badge, a day after the national association of families of those abducted by North Korea and the “Sukuukai” group for the rescue of Japanese abductees presented 10 badges to the U.S. side.

 

Those close to the Japan-U.S. relationship expressed relief, with one saying that “this made the Japan-U.S. partnership stronger, as we were able to confirm that the Biden administration will not give less priority to the abductions issue [than past administrations have].”

 

Prime Minister Suga wore a blue necktie at the summit talks and reaffirmed with President Biden the commitment to call for the prompt resolution of the abductions issue. Suga also discussed in detail the importance of resolving the abductions issue when he met with Vice President Kamala Harris, who is seen as most likely to be the next U.S. president.  

 

No progress has been made on the abductions issue since five Japanese abductees returned to Japan in 2002. Following former President Donald Trump, President Biden also shows enthusiasm for the abductions issue. Japan must seize this moment and achieve a breakthrough in this long-standing issue.

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