Seoul speaks up — how about Washington?

The Jiji wire service carried two articles today that report on South Korean officials criticizing Japan for its focus on the abductions issue in the multilateral de-nuclearization talks.

First, Yu Myong-hwan, South Korea’s newly appointed ambassador to Japan, said at a press conference with Japanese journalists in Seoul that the resolving the nuclear issue must take priority in the six-party talks.

Subsequently, Jiji reported that the Song Min-soon, Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, criticized Japan for raising the abductions issue — what he argued is a bilateral issue — in the multilateral talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, and urged Japan to contribute to energy support for North Korea.

Altogether sound advice: I cannot see how Japan will come out looking good if its insistence on putting the abductions issue before the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, which arguably threaten Japan more than any other country, scuttles this agreement. I certainly do not expect that the Bush administration, which has already demonstrated that it is making a good-faith effort to reach a lasting agreement, would be altogether pleased with the Abe Cabinet. If anything, the departure of Robert Joseph, under secretary of state for arms control and international security, means that the Bush administration is that much more committed to seeing the six-party talks through to fruition.

So when will Washington follow Seoul’s lead and question Tokyo’s abductions obsession publicly, reminding Japan that a de-nuclearized Korean Peninsula is in its interests?

Or maybe Japan has decided to base its North Korea policy on Dr. NakaMats’s promise to develop a missile shield that will “make missiles turn around”?

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