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Yoichi Shimada

【#469(Special)】Talks with Senior U.S. Officials on North Korean Problems

Yoichi Shimada / 2017.09.21 (Thu)

September 20, 2017

     For about a week from September 11, I visited Washington and New York as a member of a joint delegation of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnaped by North Korea, the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnaped by North Korea (NARKN) and a parliamentarians’ league for the early rescue of Japanese abductees. I serve as NARKN vice chairman.
     We emphasized the following two points during the U.S. visit:
1.North Korean problems to be resolved must include human rights as well as nuclear and missile development. North Korea’s abduction of foreign citizens represents a key part of the human rights problem.
2.Pressure on North Korea should continue to be enhanced until all problems are resolved.

A regime change under enhanced pressure would be ideal
     It is desirable for North Korean problems to be resolved peacefully or without resorting to war before Pyongyang deploys nuclear missiles. However, the peaceful resolution does not necessarily mean talks with North Korea. Rather, it runs counter to talks. An ideal peaceful resolution should be a regime change under enhanced pressure rather than any halfway compromise.
     Matt Pottinger, senior director for Asia at the White House’s National Security Council, told us that as official talks with North Korea would cause pressure for easing sanctions, no official talks should be conducted with economic and political pressure being enhanced. The delegation agreed to the remark representing a right understanding.
     Backdoor contacts with North Korea to get information may be acceptable. However, official dialogue such as the six-party talks between Japan, the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and North Korea could encourage China and Russia to seek to ease sanctions step by step while allowing North Korea to buy time. Under the George W. Bush administration, then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill lifted financial sanctions beginning to produce effects, allowing North Korea to get funds for nuclear missile development. Such mistakes should not be repeated.

Japan to support U.S. military attack
     Fortunately, senior State Department and Pentagon officials voiced their clear recognition that the enhancement of economic and political pressure on North Korea should be the basis for the peaceful resolution of North Korean problems.
     “Prioritizing diplomacy and emphasizing the importance of dialogue will not work with North Korea,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in his contribution to The New York Times on September 18. “Now is the time to exert the utmost pressure on the North.” Through our U.S. visit, we confirmed that the top Japanese and U.S. leaders have no difference on this matter.
     I told NSC and Pentagon officials I was sure that the Japanese government would fully support and assist the United States if Washington decided to choose a military option after concluding that economic sanctions combined with efforts to eliminate Chinese and Russian sabotage would fail to prevent North Korea from deploying nuclear missiles. Prime Minister Abe himself in the contribution to The New York Times reiterated his position, saying, “I firmly support the United States position that all options are on the table.”
     As noted by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, China accounts for most of oil supply to North Korea, while Russia is the largest employer of North Korean migrant workers forced to work abroad. If there exist countries that make a U.S. military option inevitable, they are China and Russia. However, pacifists will point an accusing finger at the Japanese and U.S. governments if they choose a military option. Open rebuttal against such accusation will also be important.

Yoichi Shimada is Planning Committee Member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Fukui Prefectural University.