Japan Feeling Left Out As U.S. Talks To Pyongyang

Japan Feeling Left Out As U.S. Talks To Pyongyang
May 17th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Japan Feeling Left Out As U.S. Talks To Pyongyang

Japan Feeling Left Out As U.S. Talks To Pyongyang
Washington Post
May 17, 2008
Pg. 14
By Blaine Harden, Washington Post Foreign Service
TOKYO -- As the Bush administration inches toward a deal to reward North Korea for retreating from its nuclear ambitions, the odd man out in the negotiations is Japan, the closest ally of the United States in Asia.
The Japanese government appears resigned to the possibility that the United States may reach an agreement with North Korea -- and remove it from a list of outlaw countries that sponsor terrorism -- without addressing issues that Japan regards as fundamental to its national interest.
A deal based on nuclear issues alone "would not solve the matter" for Japan and it would refuse to normalize relations with North Korea, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said in a recent interview with The Washington Post.
The Japanese government wants the North to disable 200 to 300 medium-range missiles that Japanese officials say are capable of striking virtually any location inside Japan.
The government here is also demanding that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il provide credible information about the fate of eight Japanese citizens who Kim has admitted were kidnapped in Japan by North Korea agents in the 1970s and '80s. The North Koreans maintain that the eight are all dead, while Japan says they are alive.
The kidnapped citizens are a national obsession in Japan, and politicians here cannot afford to be perceived as neglecting them.
Trying to explain the emotional power of the issue for the Japanese people, a Foreign Ministry official in Tokyo recently compared the best-known of the missing abductees -- Megumi Yokota, who was 13 when she was kidnapped 30 years ago -- to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist who made the world aware of the network of Soviet prisons known as the gulag.
"The nuclear issue, the missile issue that imposes a threat to Japan and the abduction issue would come as a set of three -- called a trilogy," Fukuda said in the interview. "Lacking any one of the three would not solve the matter."
Japan is a party to six-nation talks focused on North Korea's nuclear program. In the past year, though, those talks have largely been shaped by negotiations between the United States and North Korea.
Fukuda said he believed that President Bush was "cognizant" of Japan's concerns and that the United States would not conduct any "careless negotiations" with North Korea on nuclear matters. "But, in the meantime, Japan, needless to say, is making efforts of its own to try to resolve" its dispute with North Korea, he said.
Fukuda said that this month he again asked for China's help on the abduction issue, when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Japan.
The pace of U.S.-North Korean nuclear negotiations appears to have quickened in recent weeks.
On May 8, officials in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, turned over to a visiting U.S. delegation about 18,000 pages of documentation related to materials produced at its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon.
The North Koreans have partially disabled the plant as part of the six-party negotiations and have agreed to blow up the cooling tower within 24 hours of being removed from the U.S. list of sponsors of terrorism, diplomats said.
The United States, for its part, has agreed to remove sanctions against North Korea, once it turns over a verifiable declaration of how much plutonium it has produced. At the same time, U.S. negotiators have eased their demands for other nuclear-related information from Pyongyang.
Watching these events unfold from within easy missile range of North Korea, the Japanese government feels out of the loop, according to several senior government officials. Tokyo is sending word to Washington "that we should not be left alone," said one senior official, echoing a commonly voiced concern.
The security relationship between Japan and the United States is extraordinarily close, with about 50,000 U.S. military personnel based here. Under a postwar treaty, the United States is obligated to defend Japan in case of military attack. Japan pays about 90 percent of the salaries of Japanese civilians who work at U.S. bases here.
When it comes to North Korea, however, Japan stakes out its own policy.
Japan recently renewed trade sanctions that ban all imports from the country and keep its ships of out Japanese ports.
Many countries are making plans to supply large amounts of food aid to North Korea. The United States announced Friday that it would send 500,000 tons, and South Korea, after several months of saying it would condition food aid on removal of nuclear weapons, now says it wants to talk with North Korea about providing food aid.
But the Japanese government is making no such plans. It cut off all aid to North Korea in 2004, after Pyongyang sent the partially cremated remains of what it said were deceased abductees back to Japan. DNA tests proved that the bones were not the remains of any of the missing eight. The apparent attempt to hoodwink Japan enraged the public.
Until its "trilogy" of issues is resolved, the Japanese government categorically rules out any kind of assistance to North Korea -- even if there was a catastrophic famine, as occurred in the 1990s.
In the interview, Fukuda said that it is in North Korea's financial interest to resolve Japan's concerns. When they are resolved, the Japanese have pledged to provide large amounts of cash -- possibly $10 billion -- and other economic aid to North Korea, as reparation for colonial occupation between 1910 and 1945.
"If I were to put myself in North Korean shoes," Fukuda said, a nuclear settlement without an abductee settlement would not be "a very favorable situation."

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