Alliance tension out in the open

The Asahi Shimbun‘s English edition printed a story today suggesting that US Secretary of State Rice told Japanese officials last month that resolving the abductions issue is not a precondition for the removal of North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In previous posts such as this one, I suggested that Japan seems to overestimate the willingness of the Bush administration, in its feeble dotage, to stand alongside Japan on the abductions issue should a breakthrough (however unlikely) become possible. And yet Abe seems content to rely upon pablum emanating from the White House, instead of concrete signals emanating from the State Department that the US is ready to deal, with or without Japan.

As this article suggests, what seemed like a more abstract problem now looks to be very real, with an unnamed US government source quoted in the article as saying, “[this] was the first public statement that clearly separated the abduction issue from the decision to remove a nation from the terrorism list.”

While the “Agreed Framework 2.0” could collapse at any time — diminishing Japanese fears of abandonment in the process — this story further supports my suspicions that for all the chummy rhetoric emanating from Washington late last month, there are genuine political problems facing the alliance that neither government seems willing or able to face.

What will happen at the first sign of a crisis? Does anyone else think that Kim Jong-il might have something in store to force the issue?

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