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Yoichi Shimada

【#512】Don’t Ease Pressure on N. Korea until Return of Abductees

Yoichi Shimada / 2018.05.08 (Tue)

May 7, 2018

     From April 30 through May 5, I visited the United States as a member of a joint delegation of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea and two supporting organizations: the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea (NARKN) and a parliamentarians’ league for the early rescue of Japanese abductees. I serve as NARKN vice chairman.
     Suffering from growing international economic and military pressure, North Korea has launched a charm offensive to get economic sanctions eased, backed by such countries as South Korea and China. How should the international community address the move of these unethical forces? As a matter of course, the international community should not ease pressure until North Korea dismantles nuclear missiles. It also should not forget North Korean human rights abuses including the abduction of foreign citizens.

A yardstick for change would be the release of political prisoners
     At a symposium sponsored by the Japanese government in New York, Takuya Yokota whose elder sister was abducted by North Korean agents, Koichiro Iizuka whose mother was kidnapped, and the Warmbiers whose son Otto was abused in North Korea before dying, joined together to make clear that they would fight in solidarity against North Korea.
     A yardstick for a dictatorship’s change for the better is the release of political prisoners. Mikhail Gorbachev of the former Soviet Union and Thein Sein of Myanmar were recognized that their willingness to reform is genuine when they released political prisoners.
     In a bad precedent, China easily got outside economic assistance in exchange for its “reform and opening” policy without the release of political prisoners and has been left to develop into a fascist monster. Until Pyongyang releases all Japanese abductees and countless North Korean versions of Otto Warmbier, other countries should not ease economic sanctions on or launch development assistance to North Korea.
     What should Japan do to have U.S. President Donald Trump work for resolving the abduction problem at his expected summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un? If Japan insists that sanctions on North Korea should not be eased until the abduction problem is resolved in a manner to satisfy Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and if the United States sticks to the Japanese insistence, it may be enough. Details of the resolution would have to be negotiated between Tokyo and Pyongyang.

Press Pyongyang to dismantle nukes in months
     After the delegation moved from Washington to New York, I stayed in the U.S. capital for talks with Robert Joseph who brokered a “Libya model” (under which Libya agreed to dismantle weapons of mass destruction in December 2003 and almost all relevant equipment and materials were shipped overseas in about three months) and his former chief of staff Fred Fleitz.
     Joseph, who was then senior director for counter-proliferation strategy at the National Security Council, said that as Washington had turned down a Libyan proposal for the simultaneous implementation of Libyan nuclear dismantlement and U.S. sanction relaxation and continued to threaten military attack, then Libyan supreme leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi had conceded the Libyan deal. Washington should not compromise with Pyongyang on a gradual nuclear dismantlement process over a few years but demand a complete nuclear dismantlement within a few months while threatening to stop negotiations unless the demand is accepted, he said. Washington had also demanded a Libyan pledge to abandon terrorism as a condition for lifting the sanctions, according to him.
     Fleitz, who is likely to join the Trump administration as aide to Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, said that if the Trump administration fell into a North Korean appeasement policy adopted by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and then Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill in the George W. Bush administration, he and Bolton would surely resign. However, Fleitz was confident that there would not be such development.
     The Japanese government would have to cooperate with these hardliners who are rich with experience in diplomacy with rogue nations.

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