The war of words and even kidnapping of citizens have been part of normal relations between the Japanese and North Koreans. Japanese policy toward North Korea is coming under increasing scrutiny, particularly after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his views that holding a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “without conditions” – is this the right path? Since North Korea continues to fire short-range ballistic missiles as it did on May 4 and May 9, Japan has taken a tougher stance against North Korea. Japan has had some diplomatic challenges when dealing with the United States in regards to North Korea and how the two countries should approach Pyongyang.
There are concerns in both Tokyo and Washington that the two nations, driven by history and a strong Trump-Abe relationship, that the two are not marching in lock step with regards to containing Kim Jong-un. Trump seems to have stepped away from the accepted narrative that high level officials in the US and Japan have agreed to in the recent past. A well understood and documented agreement is necessary between Japan and the United States to allow both countries to carry on with negotiations. Japan has been frustrated as it has worked to learn about its citizens who were kidnapped and put into forced labor, some even killed in the 1980s and 1990s. Japan has made requests to President Trump, asking him to support its efforts.
For his part, Prime Minister Abe is now looking to work more closely with North Korea to improve relations, to ensure that North Korea does not fire missiles into Japan air space. There is a deep history of hate and misunderstanding between Tokyo and Pyongyang, And now there are parts of the Japanese government who are questioning the future of relations – does it make sense for Japan to reach out?