Perizat RISBEK KIZI
Speaking at the 207th session of the Japanese parliament, Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida said that he is ready to make contact with the leader of the DPRK Kim Jong-un without preconditions in order to solve the problem of Japanese citizens forcibly detained in the DPRK since the 1970s and 1980s.
Earlier, in his October 8 speech, Kishida said that North Korea’s development of missiles and nuclear weapons is unacceptable, but Japan is seeking to normalize diplomatic relations with North Korea by resolving their “sad (military) past” and the long-standing problem of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.
However, immediately after this statement by the Japanese Prime Minister, North Korea confirmed that the problem of its abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s has been already resolved. “The abduction issue was long ago resolved perfectly and completely with the visits to Pyongyang by the then Japanese prime minister in September 2002 and May 2004, and the subsequent sincerity and efforts from our side,” said a North Korean Foreign Ministry researcher. In addition, Pyongyang warned that bilateral relations would deteriorate further if Tokyo does not change its position on the abduction issue.
Later, on November 14, about 800 people, including family members of the abductees, their supporters, members of the local assembly, prefectural governors and lawmakers, gathered in Tokyo, where they called for the immediate return of the abducted and reaffirmed their determination not to back down. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who also attended the meeting, said the abduction issue remains a top priority under his administration and that he will personally lead efforts to investigate cases of North Korean abduction of Japanese citizens.
According to Tokyo, there were several incidents involving the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. The Japanese government has identified 17 Japanese citizens as abduction victims.
According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, in September 2002, North Korea admitted to kidnapping Japanese citizens and apologized. In October of the same year, the five abductees returned to Japan. As for the rest of the abducted, Pyongyang has not yet provided any acceptable explanations, and therefore the Japanese government considers them unacceptable.
Pyongyang claims that the abduction issue has long been “resolved,” saying eight of them, including the legendary kidnapped Megumi Yokota, have died and the other four have never entered the country.
How Japan’s position on the abduction issue affects Japan-South Korea relations
For Japanese-South Korean relations, interaction and coordination of the positions of the two countries in the confrontation with the DPRK are characteristic, and for security reasons, they are both allies of the United States. However, as the East Asia Forum writes, both governments put their positions on historical issues above the potential benefits of expanding trilateral security cooperation. Disagreements persist between Tokyo and Seoul in assessing the historical past, and a heated dispute continues over the Dokdo (Takeshima) islands. In addition, the persistent advancement by the Japanese leadership of the problem of abductions to the fore is causing friction between Japan and South Korea over the settlement of the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula.