How do we get Japan back at the table of talking to North and South Korea?
Japan has been focused on making headway with North Korea on the subject of abductions, a problematic issue between Tokyo and Pyongyang that never seems to improve. This issue started back in the 1960s and 1970s when Japanese citizens were abducted in Japan and taken to North Korea to use as Japanese language and cultural instructors for the North Korean state. Despite several abductees being returned to their families, there are still many who have not been accounted for after reports spread that these Japanese citizens were seen alive in North Korea in the 1990s.
Currently Japan is using diplomatic channels in Beijing as well as Seoul, South Korea relationships to start a process of planning talks with North Korea. However, all hopes for some dialogue are now fading fast and Japan is clearly not part of the North Korea, South Korea, China and United States group talking on a regular basis. Japanese officials seem to be at a loss, as historically, the US has been a voice for Japan. Now the Trump administration is either ignoring the issue or quietly speaking on the behalf of Tokyo, possibly with a view to break news in the future.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in brought up the abduction issue in April and September of 2018 with North Korea and of course their leader, Kim Jong-un, but right now there have been some military incident and legal rulings in South Korea that have suggested that South Korean military teams locked in offensive stances in Japanese warplanes and even reparations were demanded by a court for Japanese occupation crimes in the 1900s. Japan and South Korea are talking but relations are tough right now – so the abductee question is in line for discussions likely later.
Japan has been working with the US, and it seems that Mr Abe and his team, in our view here at Classiarius, we feel that the table should have a seat for Japan. Relations between Japan and South Korea must improve for a longer-term objective of working with Pyongyang in the future.