Japan and North Korea need to go the extra mile in order to lay the path ahead
Ri Kuk-Chol and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Japan and North Korea have had a frosty relationship for far too long and it is hoped that officials from both nations will have laid the foundation stone for genuinely turning the corner. Of course, expectations are not too high because of countless stumbling blocks on both sides. However, if officials from Japan and North Korea can overcome genuine concerns and at least start to “walk together,” even if not in complete unison, then this will be positive.
North Korea must understand that negative relations with Japan only serve the enemies of Pyongyang. Likewise, political leaders in Tokyo have recently witnessed the “nationalist switch” in China and South Korea respectively. Therefore, it is clear in Tokyo that the only “trusted friend” in the region is Taiwan. Yet if the “Chinese economic bandwagon” one day swallows this island economically, then even this solace may be taken away.
The Russian Federation is also a central nation in the geopolitical reality of Northeast Asia and throughout other parts of Asia. After all, political elites in Moscow fully understand the geopolitical importance of Central Asia and developing strong ties with China and India respectively. At the same time the geopolitical importance of Mongolia is fully understood in the Russian Federation. Therefore, Japan should overcome its petty nationalist tendencies towards this major power and seek a solution to the disputed areas, which continue to hinder a powerful friendship based on mutual trust.
Turning back to events covering the talks today between officials from Japan and North Korea, it is obvious that both nations need to “break their respective chains.” The new political leader in North Korea can show the world that he is open to sweeping geopolitical changes alongside supporting genuine economic reforms with the help of China. Given this reality, Kim Jong-un can genuinely try to reach the masses based on the similar motives of Deng Xiaoping in China when he came to power.
The Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, Osamu Fujimura, stated prior to the meeting that “The abduction issue will be included as a matter of course.” Likewise, Koichiro Gemba, Foreign Minister of Japan, spoke in a similar vein when he stated that “We’d like to ask the North Korean side to positively work on pending issues between the two countries including the abduction issue.”
However, despite the seriousness of this issue it is clear that political leaders in Tokyo must move towards a more broad approach. Surely, other more important issues like the nuclear angle, geopolitical concerns, testing military hardware and building economic bridges must outweigh the continuing stumbling blocks. Once other developments move forward then naturally North Korea will be more forthcoming.
Japan must understand that millions of Koreans died defending Korean nationalism from Japanese imperialism and then against American aggression during the Korean War. After the brutal Korean War the United States then supported successive authoritarian governments in South Korea before the onset of democracy in this nation. It is too easy to point the finger at North Korea but the reality is that all nations have their own histories and outside forces led to a siege mentality in Pyongyang – but this siege mentality was not based on whims but on hard facts related to history.
Japan and North Korea need to forgo the historical and political obstacles in order to radically alter the situation. Osamu Fujimura stated that “We have been working based on the principle of settling the unfortunate past and on restoring normal relations.”
The new leader of North Korea showed sincerity by allowing a group of nationals from Japan to reclaim loved ones who died because of the tragic events of World War Two. Sadao Masaki, who is part of this group, commented that “Things have proceeded to a stage that is beyond what we had even hoped for. We are extremely grateful.”
In another article by Modern Tokyo Times about relations between Japan and North Korea, it was stated that“Some analysts are indicating that North Korea is reaching out because of current tensions between Japan and other regional nations based on territorial issues. For example harsh comments have been made by the leader of South Korea towards Japan in recent times. However, this is too cynical because the new leader of North Korea must be judged on what happens during his leadership.”
Analysts in Japan and North Korea are eagerly awaiting the outcome and clearly major powers throughout the region will be watching events closely. It is only hoped that political leaders in Japan and North Korea will move forward by showing sincerity and mutual respect.