On July 24, at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) that was held in Singapore, Foreign Minister Koumura repeatedly asked North Korea’s Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun about the reinvestigation of the abductions, but he did not received a specific answer. Although North Korea promised Japan at the June working-level talks to carry out a reinvestigation in return for a partial easing of economic sanctions, at present, there has been no progress or anything forward-looking happening.

In response, Hidekazu Hasuike, the former deputy representative of the association of families of abducted Japanese said: “North Korea bragged about the abductions having been resolved, so the Japanese government could do nothing about it to the other side. In that respect, the promise of a reinvestigation, I think, is progress. However, until now, our response to North Korea has been solely hard-lined, with the result that there have not been responses from the North. Whenever I see my brother and talk to him, it makes me think what would be the most effective way to deal with North Korea. We cannot just simply wave economic sanctions at them; we must also be flexible in our responses, perhaps. I think there is a need at some point to compromise.”

The change in Hasuike’s thinking away from his previous hard-line stance brought criticism on him from the family association, but his decision, painstakingly made, was that any means should be taken in order to resolve the abduction issue.

Actually, behind the scenes, Japan-DPRK negotiations may be reaching a crucial stage. A senior Foreign Ministry official set the stage: “North Korea has sounded us out privately that it is prepared return several victims of abduction. The Japanese government’s condition is that unless the abductees are released, normalization of relations will never advance. Having swallowed that, North Korea reportedly will transmit to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Hill the names of the abduction victims it will repatriate. In addition, talk has arisen about the U.S. being the guarantor that the commitments by both countries would be carried out.”

As a result, Prime Minister Fukuda, when he meets President Bush at the Beijing Olympics will inform him whether or not North Korea has swallowed those conditions or not. Prime Minister Fukuda would like to use the resolving of the abduction issue as a means to boost his popularity, but will he instead be swallowing a “poisoned bean cake”?

Source: SHUKAN SHINCHO

Click the links below for related stories posted on Black Tokyo:

   1. Megumi Yokota and the DPRK-Japan Kidnapping Issue

Here is a short anime produced by the Japanese Government to familiarize you with the Japan-DPRK abduction issue. The PBS abduction movie interview is here.