Why is the abduction issue not progressing? Shigeru Yokota, regrettable death-July 2, 17:10

Shigeru, the father of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted by North Korea, died on June 5.
It has been 42 years since Megumi's abduction. Many mourned the death of Shigeru who could not meet his beloved daughter again.
Why is the Abe administration's "most important issue" abduction issue not progressing? Report what is happening between Japan and North Korea.
(Nobuyuki Hanaoka)

"I'm sorry"

The night when Shigeru Yokota died.
Prime Minister Abe, who responded to an interview with a reporter in front of his private residence in Shibuya, Tokyo, proclaimed that he should divide the sentence into words.
"As Prime Minister, I have to say that Megumi's return to Japan has not been realized yet.

Four days later, Shige's wife, Sakie, had a press conference with his twin son, brother Takuya, and brother Tetsuya, and decided that “I want to do my best to recover Megumi no matter how many years have passed”. I told you.

The moment when expectations for a solution rise

An abduction issue that has long afflicted victims and their families. However, there are moments when expectations were raised toward the solution. The so-called "Stockholm Agreement".

Six years ago in May 2014.
In a government-Japanese talks held in Stockholm, Sweden, North Korea promised to conduct a comprehensive and comprehensive investigation into the abductees and the so-called identified disappearances who could not be excluded. ..

In response, the Japanese government decided to lift some of the sanctions unique to Japan.

However, as a result, the Japanese and North Korean governments did not announce the survey results, and the agreement was abandoned. The reason why it happened is not explained in detail by the two governments, and it remains a mystery.

"Because it is a challenge"

When the Stockholm agreement was signed, there were many opinions that the Japanese government and the opposition parties were deeply distrustful of North Korea and should avoid a hasty agreement.

Keiji Furuya, a member of the House of Representatives of the Liberal Democratic Party, who was the chairman of the bipartisan parliamentary alliance aimed at resolving the abduction issue, was said to have been persuaded by Prime Minister Abe as follows.

“I and my family were both reluctant. But Prime Minister Abe persuaded me, “This is a challenge.” The challenge may be confusing, but if you deny it, I think I was going to do it again, so I thought I would do it. The prime minister probably had the perception that it was "substantially tough." It was just a challenge."

Focus of agreement

What Japan was particular about in the process of consultation was whether the effectiveness of the survey was secured. In other words, what happened to the system of the "Special Investigation Committee" that North Korea set up?

Approximately one month after the agreement, on July 1st, in an intergovernmental talks held in Beijing, North Korea told Japan that the "Special Investigation Committee" had a special He explained that he was authorized and that the members included the executives of the "National Security and Conservation Department."

The Japanese government was paying attention to the fact that the “National Security and Conservation Department,” which is a secret police, came to the forefront. It was judged that the seriousness of the investigation was high, and in response to the start of the investigation, Japan decided to cancel some of its own sanctions.

A person familiar with the situation on the North Korean side said as follows.

"The structure of the "Special Investigation Committee" is based on the decision of the Korean leadership. After the first Japan-North Korea summit meeting in 2002, the reason why the bilateral relations were distorted is not surprising to the Korean side. There's a point, but it means that we should get over all of them and reach the goal of the Pyongyang Declaration between Japan and North Korea."

Delay in publication of survey

However, as worried, the exchanges between the two countries stagnated and dark clouds struck shortly after the Stockholm agreement.

North Korea contacted Japan in September when it was about to issue its first report, saying, "The target of the survey is about one year in total, and it is still in the early stages." In addition, even one year after the establishment of the Special Investigation Committee, in July of the following year, it was said that "the investigation has been conducted sincerely, but it will take some time now".

Then, in February 2016, North Korea forced a nuclear test and launched a long-range ballistic missile.

When the Japanese government strengthened sanctions again, North Korea announced that it would stop the investigation and dismantle the Special Investigation Committee, and the Stockholm agreement was abandoned.

New information on the abductees shown

Why did you fail?

Several government officials explained that although the content of the survey results was informally communicated from North Korea, there was information that the Japanese government was far from acceptable.

According to government officials, North Korea underlined two surviving abduction victims to the Japanese side.
Both are from Kobe City and have been missing since 1978, and Ryumitsu Kaneda has been missing since 1979.

The two are working at a ramen shop in Higashinada-ku, Kobe, and are said to have been sent to North Korea by a ramen shop owner who was instructed by North Korea.

Regarding Mr. Tanaka, Japan had requested an investigation as a government-approved abduction victim, but said that North Korea had not entered the country. In addition, Mr. Kaneda was one of the missing persons that police could not rule out the possibility of abduction.

They were also told that they had a family in North Korea and were not willing to return to Japan, and the informal survey results were reported to Prime Minister Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga.

A government official recalls the situation at the time.
"Even if two people come to Japan, if they don't intend to return to Japan, it will be like a goodwill visit for only two weeks. From the families of other abductees, they said, "Our family What was happening?", and when it said, "It's too bad for me," I would have expected a lot of public criticism, so "this is no good," says

Prime Minister Abe. It seems that the government's position that all the victims of abductions, such as Megumi Yokota, should do their utmost to return to Japan immediately is not enough for the information of only two people, and that the citizens are not convinced that they will not be able to receive the report.
He called on North Korea to continue the investigation and further information on the abductee victims, but there was no major change in North Korean policy, and the talks continued in parallel.

Regarding such information, the government has declined to make a statement in the National Assembly's answer, saying, "We will refrain from answering, as it may hinder future responses."

Deepening mutual distrust, abandonment of agreement

A North Korean official said that there were discrepancies from the Japanese side's expectations regarding the abduction issue from the beginning.
"We conducted a survey in accordance with the Stockholm Agreement, but the problem was how the Japanese side took the results. The agreement was a survey on all Japanese people, including so-called Japanese wives, and it was confidence-building and disbelief. while advancing as a process of (dispel), the Japanese government is looking at the suitable time, the survey results shown from the Korean side should have been steered by, for example, announced to the public "

and the Japanese abduction issue is the top priority, Mutual distrust deepened as North Korea's speculation that the abduction was just one of the problems between Japan and North Korea passed each other.

Shunji Hiraiwa, a professor of Nanzan University who is familiar with North Korean politics, analyzes the background behind the deadlock of the Japan-North Korea talks as follows.

“Japan is supposed to be fooled by North Korea, so I will prioritize the most central abduction issue and identify the change in North Korean attitude, and proceed with the whole process from the perspective of change in attitude. . one of North Korea, so do not trust Japan, there is the fact that you want to place to take the most Finally, negotiations probably was followed by a pretty proceed no circumstances "

after the Stockholm agreement the day between the formal government of North Korea No consultation has been held.
The ironic result was that the agreement, which was supposed to promote the resolution of the abductions issue, led to deepening mutual distrust, and cast a dark shadow on the subsequent Japan-North Korea relationship.

"Three mentions of abduction in US-North Korea talk" reaction...

Two years have passed since 2018, when the Stockholm Accord stalled in 2018. The abduction issue shows new developments.

This is the first ever US-North Korea summit meeting held in Singapore on June 12. US President Trump said in a press conference after the talks that he had raised the abduction issue and said, "Although it was not mentioned in the joint statement, they will work on it."

Regarding the exchange at the summit, Mr. Furuya, the former minister in charge of the abduction issue, said that senior US government officials explained that President Trump mentioned the abduction issue three times.

"I heard in Washington directly from Deputy Assistant Vice-President Pottinger, who was present at the summit, but on the day of the summit, President Trump said he talked about the three-time abduction issue, including talks and luncheons. Was completely through and changed the subject." The second time, he nodded a little, and the third time, he said, "There may be times like that,"

Trump said last year. When I visited Japan in May, I met with the family of the abductee. At that time, he received a letter from Keiko Arimoto's father, Mr. Akihiro, who wrote his thoughts, and later replied a letter stating his determination to tackle the abduction issue.

As Japan and the US cooperated to press North Korea to solve the abduction issue, the expectations for the abduction issue to be resolved by the progress of US-North talks in Japan increased.

Shift negotiation routes to intelligence agencies

It is not the foreign affairs professionals such as the State Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the two countries that played a major role in the realization of the US-North Korea summit. The United States is the CIA = Central Intelligence Bureau, North Korea is the united front of the Korean Labor Party, and South Korea is the National Intelligence Service. It was said that it was an information agency.

It has been pointed out that Japan has shifted its system from negotiations led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to negotiations led by (then) Cabinet Intelligence Officer Kitamura, who was originally from the National Police Agency and has the trust of Prime Minister Abe.

In August 2018, the electronic version of the Washington Post, a leading paper in the United States, was said to have been serving as a secretary of the North Korea's united front in those days in July, the month following the U.S.-Korean summit, in July. Mr. Kim Sung said that he had a confidential meeting in Vietnam and discussed the abduction issue.

The United Front was an intelligence agency that played a major role in the US-North Korea summit meeting, and it was revealed that the Prime Minister's residence is seeking a new channel that connects directly to the North Korean leadership. Then, Japan's attitude toward North Korea will change in line with the movements of the US and North Korea.

How does North view Japan in a transition to dialogue?

In March 2019, the Japanese government for the first time refrained from submitting a resolution to condemn North Korea's abduction issue and human rights violations, which it has jointly submitted to the UN Human Rights Council for the eleventh consecutive year.

Also, in the diplomatic blueprint published in April, the phrase "to increase pressure to the maximum" disappears, and "it is important for the international community to work together to support negotiations between the United States and North Korea." It was changed to the expression".

And in May, Prime Minister Abe announced, "I think that I must face Kim unconditionally in order to resolve the abduction issue," without any preconditions. Kim Jung-un (Kim Jong-un) revealed his intention to achieve a summit meeting with the Korean Labor Party chairman.

Furuya, the former minister in charge of the abduction issue, points out that President Trump may have existed in this change in attitude.
"I will also advice of Trump president. Then I thought Kim Jung Eun chairman does not proceed before even one step and does not come riding to the arena of negotiations.'S advanced strategic decision"

in question North Korea, of these Japan How do you accept changes in posture? North Korean officials have a strict view.
"Similar to the United Nations resolution and the diplomatic blueprint, which used to speak badly with a strength of 10 up to a strength of 5, the hostile policy and sanctions against Korea continue, The Koreans continue to beat each other, and the distrust and antipathy of the Korean side are only growing.”

Professor Hiraiwa points out that North Korea may not be able to measure Japan's true intentions.
``Prime Minister Abe said at the UN General Assembly in 2017 that ``no dialogue is necessary'', but it will change to a dialogue from 2018 at once, so if North Korea is seriously saying, diplomatic relations are normal I don't know if I'm going to talk about incarnation.''

Can Time Resolve Abductions?

With the aging of the abductees' families aging and the abduction issue being said to be a battle against time, what is the outlook for the government to resolve the issue?

Prime Minister Abe said at a press conference on June 18:

"We are also a variety of correspondence under the surface would like to somehow move the North Korea, as the most important issue of the government in the future, we are working as my mission"

and a variety of correspondence that have been made under the hood Do you mean? Furuya, the former minister in charge of the abduction issue, explained as follows.

“North Korea also has a close alliance with nations and people with whom it has a close relationship, and some of them have good relations with Japan as well. We are doing a considerable amount of work, including such personal relationships. I had a good relationship with the United States, and even with China and Russia, I have decided that it is not necessary to raise Japan's priority. It is important to make sure that it is better to negotiate with Japan. I "

Hiraiwa professor, pointed out that we should go in search of actively dialogue from Japan now.

“The media and family associations are calling for talks with North Korea. From the Japanese government's perspective, it is easy to take an active approach. Only the abduction issue is given priority. The abduction issue is important, but the nuclear and missile issues are also extremely important issues for Japan. The hurdles are high, so it is necessary to aim for a comprehensive solution in cooperation with the international community. is there"

The new "clue"

Mr. Takuya Yokota said at a press conference on June 9: "In the Diet, I want you to act concretely and swiftly without the ruling or opposition barriers. The media are irrelevant to this issue. I would like to take more of this as my matter."
The family's desperate appeal is directed not only to the government and the Diet but also to the media.

It goes without saying that negotiations with North Korea over the abduction issue are extremely difficult, involving not only nuclear weapons and missiles, but also public opinion.
However, the Japan-North Korea relationship has a history of continuing to search for clues to negotiations, even though those who have a sense of distrust have provided some wisdom with the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration and the Stockholm Agreement. While utilizing such experience, the Japanese government can find a new clue, but there is not much time left.

Nobuyuki Hanaoka, Reporter, Department of Political Affairs
Joined the company in 2006. After working at the Akita station, he was in the political department in 2011. After that, after going through the Hakodate Bureau, I went to the political department again. He has been in charge of security and abduction issues at the official residence club since 1919.