Bush tries to reassure Japan

US President George W. Bush spoke with Japanese journalists before heading to Japan for the Toyako summit, and while he spoke about the summit, it seems that his interlocutors were more interested in last week’s announcement that the US will proceed in removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In what Mainichi describes as an effort to still Japanese fears of “abandonment,” the president insisted that he remembers his meeting with the Yokotas and that the abductees will not be forgotten.

In his attempt to reassure Japan, Mr. Bush stated that the abductions issue should be resolved within the framework of the six-party talks (presumably as opposed to the framework of Japan-North Korea bilateral talks).

Will Japanese leaders and the Japanese public be reassured by the president’s words? It seems that the time of relying on the president’s words has passed, and even conservatives — who, if Abe Shinzo’s reliance on Mr. Bush’s promises on the abductees, once put considerable stock in the president’s words — are no longer content to rely on the promise of President Bush. And why should they? How does the president propose to resolve the abductions issue in a multilateral setting? Are China and South Korea prepared to pressure North Korea on the abductees. If not, the president’s desire to see the abductions issue solved multilaterally is meaningless. All it means is that Japan will continue to look to others for the answer to the problem instead of looking at its own policy and asking, “What constitutes ‘progress’ on the abductions? What will constitute ‘resolution’ on the abductions?” What if the proof Japan wants doesn’t exist?

There are few signs that Japan is prepared to reckon with the consequences of putting its North Korea policy in the hands of the families of the victims — and fixing that mistake. As tragic as the abductions are, Japan has squandered its influence and outsourced its North Korea policy to the US as a result of this issue. Now that the US has changed course as a result of its — or the State Department’s — assessment of US national interests, Japan’s leaders are left with nothing, no plan B, no new ideas, nothing but railing at the US for its abandonment of Japan.

Is there a leader in Japan — aside from this man — with the courage to challenge the abductions-centered consensus, to tell the families that as sad as it is to say, they might not get the truth until after the collapse of the DPRK, and in the meantime Japan has other goals to pursue in the region that mean shelving the abductees for now, like North Korea’s nuclear program? The prevailing deal is far from perfect, and only a first step, but why shouldn’t Japan be engaged in seeing the deal through in the hope that this agreement will stick? Does Japan have nothing to gain from a stabilized Korean peninsula? As Sam Roggeveen noted, even if the agreement doesn’t disarm North Korea — an unlikely goal — it might result in a less belligerent North Korea, which will in turn buy China, South Korea, the US, Japan, and Russia time to plan for what to do when Kim dies, a process in which Japan ought to be deeply engaged.

12 thoughts on “Bush tries to reassure Japan

  1. Japan blew their opportunity because they put too much emphasis on the abductions issue. The U.S and the rest of the world could not hold up the process due to this one UNRELATED ISSUE.In addition, Bush is irrelavant. Japan needs to focus on the next potential US President.


  2. Anonymous

    \”The prevailing deal is far from perfect, and only a first step, but why shouldn\’t Japan be engaged in seeing the deal through in the hope that this agreement will stick? Does Japan have nothing to gain from a stabilized Korean peninsula? \”This is yet another example of American\’s very short memory.Remember KEDO,Tobias?Who paid the bills and who refused and who eventually killed the eniter project?I think your claim is outrageous.Aceface


  3. Aceface,I don\’t speak for America — I speak for myself.And you skillfully avoided the question as to whether Japan has anything to gain from a stabilized Korean peninsula.I assume that you\’re suggesting that Japan paid the bills? Certainly not solely. Your tale of the Agreed Framework leaves quite a bit out.But that\’s history: what matters is today, and as of yet I\’ve seen you offer no alternative to what\’s being attempted now.Yes, it\’s an awful situation. Yes, we\’ve basically rewound the clock.But what alternative is there to playing the game, making slight concessions and hope that China leans on North Korea enough to follow through on its commitments?


  4. Bryce

    Watch it Tobias,All this naysaying about the importance on the abductions issue and you will wind up on 2-ch.But, yeah, Ace, I\’m interested to know what you think would be the best way to proceed on this issue. Surely it is not sitting around attemptingto pressure the NKans into handing over something they may well not have.


  5. Aceface

    \”I assume that you\’re suggesting that Japan paid the bills? Certainly not solely. Your tale of the Agreed Framework leaves quite a bit out.\”Not quite.Japan paid almost half-billion dollars on this \”international consortium\” that the U.S had signed with Pyongyang,but then the U.S congress had refused to pay the budget,and in the end the current adminstration chose to dump.This may be considered as one of the concrete proof that Japan has been very willing to contribute for the stability and prosperity in Korean Peninsula and why the American Korea policy highly unreliable to our eyes.The effective negotiation requires certain amount of continuity and here in East Asia,the history matters above all things.But as of yet we\’ve heard no explanation from Washington for the sudden turn-around and leaving Japan in cold.If we only\”hope\” and wait for China to leans on North Korea enough to follow through on its commitments,we don\’t need \”Six\” for the party,besides,that\’s not happening.That is why the colloborated stance and action between Japan and the U.S are important.Yet you undermine the ties in numerous posts and spread the perception as if we only stick to the abduction and pass us the blame. x x xHow about we have \”Five party\” get together,the one without Pyongyang where we can talk about our beef with North Korea?What is certain is we all want stability in Korean peninsula.However,this is a loaded question since we all have different priorities.Beijing is more interested in supporting the regime than nuclear disarmament.Same can be said about Seoul when Rhee was in the office.but we still haven\’t learned what is in the new president\’s mind.And as for the U.S,they either want some presidential legacies,or defuse the crisis in East Asia just for the time being because of the various reasons.With such lack of mutual consensus, somehow Japan has solely been accused for having our own priority just like everybody else and I\’m not very amused with that.Let\’s have this five party talk and figure out for a joint answer and a way to apply that to Pyongyang.Throgh that process,we will probably come out with the conclusion that certain amount of pressure is inevitable to persuade Pyongyang to achieve our goals.And if that won\’t be the conclusion,I think it\’s time to have a new five party talk,the one without Tokyo.That would probably satisfy people like tornadoes28.


  6. Bryce

    Five Party Talks: Wasn\’t that Machimura\’s idea? Does anyone know what happened to it. It isn\’t really a bad proposal…


  7. M-Bone

    Some serious debate about the North Korea situation here.When I look at the abduction issue, I can`t help but think that the Japanese government has directed its energies in the wrong direction. By basically cutting off engagement with North Korea and leaving most, if not all, of the negotiation on the nuclear issue to the Americans, it seems like Japanese governments (but especially Abe) have put the few kidnap victims (who may or most likely may not be alive)ahead of limiting what is likely the single biggest threat to Japan – NK atomic weapons (China is, in my opinon, too engaged with `the world` on the economic level to think about attacking Japan in the medium term). We all remember the Japanese government response to Japanese kidnapped in the Middle East – it was pretty much a big `F` you. This is, of course, not the same as the (horrific) kidnapping of Japanese in Japan but it still does not explain why one case was trivia and the other a national tragedy. The only way of explaining this that I can think of is positing a bent conservative ideology that has put immediate public opinion and eventual constiutional revision concerns over what seems to really matter – a safer Japan / more stable East Asia.How, in any case, did neo-nationalists like Abe think that sanctions and hard rhetoric were suddenly going to make North Korea say `sorry, we found Megumi!` (if there are other rachi higaisha alive, the NK government has already backed itself into a corner anyway). It seems fairly clear to me that the only way to really resolve the abduction issue would be brining North Korea into the fold (meaning more engagement, probably by cooperating with China and South Korea) and gaining on the ground access (a process that could take years, if not decades). This can only be achieved with engagement (which of course, is a give and take).There is a recent manga (Rachi Higaisha wo Kyushutsu Seyo!) that imagines an elite Jieitai strike force making its way into North Korea and saving the rachi-higaisha. This is a `simulation` manga but it seems to have all of the reality of `Bleach` or `Naruto` (Gods of death, flying ninjas). I can`t help but think that in his prime, Abe was daydreaming about just this kind of thing. We`ll see giant robots in space first.


  8. Aceface

    M-Bone:Those who got kidnapped in Iraq were there against the repeated request and warning from MoFA to leave the country at once.In another words,they were there asking for troubles.Those who were abducted by NK were ordinary citizen living in their country.It is only natural for the government to maintain the search for their whereabout since this is the matter of sovereign violation.And no one gives me clear reasons for the serious contradiction of why one case should be dealt in the spirit of \”Never negotiate with the terrorists\” while on the other\”give them all they want and all you\’ve got\”.Yeah,people say because Pyongyang has the nuke and engagement is the answer.But NK had repeatedly claimed they will not talk on this with Japan,but only with the U.S.Plus the Tokyo\’s \”financial assistance\” card had lost it\’s power because of the Sk\’s Sunshine policy and Chinese aid.Which made the prospect of engagement highly doubtful.So it was a natural conclusion for Japan to be a part of six party and deal with NK in \”dialogue and pressure\” manner.(and here the bad cops were supposed be Tokyo and Washington,while the other three do good cop thing)But with the NK nuclear test in 2006,the meaning of the six party talks had changed.We lost the leverage and NK got the ultimate asset.And now Pyongyang is using the six party to marginalize Tokyo.And now Washigton(and American media) becoming their agent of influence in a way,thanks to Chiris Hill.Now Six party talk had become the place where the tail wagging the dog.And for Tokyo,it has lost it\’s meaning.On the contrary to what Chris Hill suggests,there is no insuarance of what so ever that lowering the guard to Pyongyang would lead them to nuclear disarmament.Which gives us suspicion that the U.S had shifted their NK policy from total disarmament to \”Pakistani model solution\”,that though Washington won\’t recognize them as a legitimate nuclear state,but allow them to recieve aids in return of keeping nuclear technology to themselves.Thus contain further nuclear proliferation.Washington will be satisfied with the fact that NK won\’t sell nukes to terrorists or spread it around the world that could potentially distabilize the world and perhpaps think that nuclear NK can be managed by the joint cooperation with Beijing,of which some in Washington think would be the future pillar of American security engagement in East Asia.Problem for Japan in this \”Pakistani model\” is that NK still possess the nuke and missiles that can be reached,not to the U.S mainland,but whole Japanese archipelago.Plus the security arrangement in East Asia will be shifted more to the U.S-China relation and U.S-Japan alliance will become the thing of the past,which further undermines Japan\’s security and freedom in diplomatic actions.Another thing.Human right issue in NK is so bad,I don\’t think the U.S congress would allow sending American tax payers money enough to put NK on it\’s feet,which is why the State Department wants to force Japan to swallow this deal.For they want Tokyo to pay the bill in forms of Japan-NK normalization process.I bet Chris Hill has some intentions of using the Six party to persuade Japan to that direction.Anyway,if Kim Jong Il can\’t make a decision to sacrifice the fruit of intelligence activities of the past,something that doesn\’t harm his status in NK a bit,why do any of us to believe he will make a strategic decisions toabandon nuke when there\’s so much is depend on it?Like I said,the abduction issue is a barometer to tell how much Pyongyang wants to change for the better and how accountable they are in the negotiation.So for Japan,there\’s not a single reason to abandon abduction issue for the moment.Even if Washington chose to \”abandon\” Tokyo as the contrary to Bush speech of yesterday,I say we still manage this policy and let the public to recognize that the U.S had indeed abandon us.That will be a long awaited wake-up call for the land of the rising sun and we finally see the end of the \”post-war\” era.


  9. M-Bone

    Ace -I agree that there is an important distinction between those taken in Iraq and the rachi higaishi (as I indicated in my original post). However, in my opinion, the issue of security against NK nukes should far outweigh the rachi issue. In the Iraq case, the Japanese government stayed the course – no deal, NO CHANGE as it would have an impact on Japan`s security (major alliance with the United States) and place in Iraq (seen as a major step foward in international cooperation by the government anyway). The rachi issue, on the other hand, seems to have CHANGED the government position – from wanting to move toward normalizatoin and protect Japan from nukes, to giving the rachi issue priority over everything else to the point of not really being able to back up the US (major partner for good or ill) or stand alone in constructive talks with NK.When Koizumi went to NK in 2002 – NK volunteered the information about the rachi higaisha, no? There was some dealing after that about where they should be, etc. but at this juncture, NK seemed as willing to engage with Japan as at any point in the postwar period. Then along came Abe and the rachi issue took priority over everything else. Dialogue began to degenerate (don`t get me wrong, NK is just awful and terribly hard to deal with… but that dosen`t mean that one shouldn`t try). Isn`t the only thing scarier than having to deal with a nutcase state like North Korea being in a position where you can`t?This becomes more important now that it seems that Sunshine is no more. And despite Chinese and SKorean aid, NK seems hungry for anything that it can get. In any case, I have to wonder, did Japanese politicians on TV talking about limiting Kim`s access to cognac or cutting off the flow of stolen bicycles really do anything to move toward bringing rachi higaisha home or, better yet, making Japan more safe from its only real (state) security threat? I agree that there is absolutely no knowing if NK has / still wants / will give up nukes. People can only guess. While guessing, however, is it not better to be engaged in more significant bilateral talks? I`m not saying that Japan should abandon the rachi issue at all, I just think that it is in Japan`s best interst to put it behind the `Pakistan` level nuke issue that you mentioned. I also think that given the nature of the rachi situation – 100% dependent on NK action for its resolution – that the best way toward that action is talk (which the current Japanese government seems more into) than the very disappointing combative stance of Abe.Perhaps you are more frustrated about the recent American position than I because I never really expected serious American help on the rachi higaisha.


  10. Aceface

    M-Bone:I agree that the issue of security against NK nukes should far outweigh the rachi issue.That\’s why GoJ is gearing MD and sattelite surveilance capability.But these,belong to the defense strategy,not diplomacy.And when it comes to negotiation,abduction matters for the reason I\’ve alresdy said,it is a barometer of accountability.And talk about engagement,2002 Koizumi visit was not the first time Japanese leaders tried to make direct negotiation through engagement.Think about \’90 Kanemaru visit and \’95 visit by LDP/Sakigake/SDP delegates.The visit in \’90,LDP party boss Shin kanemaru promised Kim Il Sung for Japanese compensation for POST WAR HOSTILE RELATION with DPRK.The \’95 visit,conducted by Kato Kouichi,then secretary-general gave altogether of 700,000 tons of rice to DPRK.These,happened long before the abduction issue became the mainstream in 2002.And what was the outcome.Nothing.Anyway,limiting Kim`s access to cognac or cutting off the flow of stolen bicycles didn\’t make Japan more secured,that I agree.However,changing constitution might.and to me,constitutional revision is far more urgent thing than giving more money to Kim Jong Il.If abduction issue benefit for the cause,why not use it.


  11. M-Bone

    `That\’s why GoJ is gearing MD and sattelite surveilance capability.But these,belong to the defense strategy,not diplomacy.`I`m a supporter of both of those. I`m holding out big hopes that MD will become better as computers become faster (they do, after all, predict that constant doubling of speed thing to continue). However, I don`t think that you can draw such a strong line between defense and diplomacy – the two are fundamentally related and the rachi higaisha (if, of course, there are more or any of the originals are alive) can only be helped by diplomacy while defense gradually improves Japan`s position.`a barometer of accountability.`I think that the default position should be that NK is not accountable but that closer engagement could gradually make it so (or make it worth their while to be – let`s face it, the world`s 100 yen shops love a dictatorship with cheap labor).The other visits that you mentioned were important (and Kanemaru Shin may have had a good legacy if he hadn`t….) but if not for the Rachi issue and the NK problem with America (axis of evil and all that), it really looked like it was going to be the Koizumi visit that made real progress.`However,changing constitution might.and to me,constitutional revision is far more urgent thing than giving more money to Kim Jong Il.If abduction issue benefit for the cause,why not use it.`I`m not for using the rachi higaisha to promote constitutoinal revision as I don`t see how force or the threat of force could possibly get any survivors home. I guess you already know that I am for a robustly armed Japan (defensive weapons) that participates in UN operations. Constitutional revision, which I am largely opposed to, may make Japan stronger in relation to NK, but revising article 9 shouldn`t be a part of that bilateral game. For me, it conjures up ugly visions of Jieitai fighting alongside the US in Iran or Pakistan and potentially inviting some sort of irregular response against Japan or Japanese (I think that everyone, on all sides of the ideological specturm, agrees that Japan is VERY vulnerable to terrorist attacks, assaults on its nuclear plants, etc.). There is also the chance of sparking something with China (probably in support of the US), a chance that I think is lessed by the continued presence of Article 9. Two thoughts -1. Revising Article 9 with an eye on NK (or using NK to gather support for article 9) could open up a huge can of worms in the Middle East or with China. By drawing attention to NK, I`m afraid that Abe and others have prevented consideration of a `global` role for Japan.2. All political issues aside, isn`t it better to give humanitarian aid when it is needed?


  12. Aceface

    Closer engagement may open up North Korea and that may help to clear abduction issue.But then again it may not.Japanese would believe \”Pay Forward\”solution back in the 80\’s.But not any more.Think about it,M-Bone.What was our Post 1964 Korea Policy was like? Our Post 1972 China Policy? Post cold war negoitiation with Moscow over the Northern Territories? All those lobbying to achieve a seat in UN security council?We paid lots and lots of cash to show some good will and lionized \”mutual understanding\”.But what was the result? Not only everyone got more than some free lunch at the expense of Japanese tax payers,but they all turned their back,once they\’ve got what they want from Tokyo.Pyongyang already has three patrons,Seoul Moscow and Beijing.And now comes Washington.Don\’t you think there\’s already enough sugar daddies lining up at the door for a rougue state?If they want \”humanitarian aid\”,there\’s alway UN.Japan may contribute by donating to WFP,or may not.But I don\’t feel the need for doing it bilaterally.\”I`m not for using the rachi higaisha to promote constitutoinal revision as I don`t see how force or the threat of force could possibly get any survivors home.\”I agree.I\’m not saying we should do what Columbians did to save hostages from FARC last week.I\’m not directly implying abduction issue to constitutional revision.But you\’ll understand that all groups must have some sort of political banner to attract people and have somekind of agenda that gives centripetal force,like say, Against abortion in the states or supporting Kyoto protocols in Europe.\”There is also the chance of sparking something with China (probably in support of the US), a chance that I think is lessed by the continued presence of Article 9. \”I think this happens BECAUSE of the presence of Article 9,M-Bone.All the constitutional debates give Beijing a room to intervene in our political debate thanks to the courtesy of the likes of Kato Kouichi.It allows them to manipulate our democracy without taking the risk of emotional backlash.Anyway,this problem gets bigger as China\’s influence gets bigger and more Americans distace themselves from Japan.I also think conservative can distance themselves slightly more from the U.S,if the dependence in national defense become smaller.Not that I\’m saying Japan to go Gaullist.But it\’s no secret that our mddle east policy contradicts because we are more relying on oils from middle east and have no emotional attachment to Israel.


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