Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My Nukes for My Money, Sez North Korea? If you Believe This, I Know a Son of a Nigerian General…

According to the Dec. 26 Asahi Shinbun (too bad, Japanese version only):

According to Lower House member Gaku Hashimoto and others [who joined former Lower House Chairman Yohei Kono in his meeting with Chinese State Council Member Tang Jiaxuan], Mr. Tang explained that "they held heated talks that went into great depth." He stated: "During the consultations, the North Korean side said that they were "willing to dismantle the Yongbyon facilities if the US dropped its financial sanctions. They showed an attitude of a measure of concession."

And here I was, spending all weekend trying to say something about the Six-Party Talks without repeating the following:
1) Japan has de facto abductee-issued itself out of the Six-Party Talks.
2) 1) only matters if North Korea decide to take down its nuclear program.
3) 2) only happens if China and South Korea threaten to cut off economic assistance to North Korea.
4) 3) will not happen.
5) The one possible deal that would result in a measure of regional stability would be one where North Korea tacitly freezes its nuclear weapons-cum-delivery program as the US drops its financial sanctions after confirming that North Korea has stopped engaging in the counterfeiting and drug trades.

How little I knew.

The Yomiuri version tells a similar story, but cites "a person (persons?) belonging to The Association for the Promotion of International Trade, Japan (JAPIT), a Japan-China trade association that is currently headed by Mr. Kono. Mr. Hashimoto is listed as an advisor on the JAPIT website.

And here's the Mainichi version, which gives no indication who did the briefing.

Mr. Hashimoto is by all accounts a highly intelligent, very personable young man, who, although son of ex-Prime Minister Hashimoto, actually was born and raised in his inherited Okayama electoral district; and got into Keio, his father's alma mater, the harder way (i.e. college entrance exams). Perhaps something was lost in translation.

But wait…

So Mr. Kono, the Lower House Chairman and only LDP president in history who did not get to serve as prime minister, goes to China as head of a bilateral exchange association, somebody in his entourage gives a press briefing, and the only thing worthy of note coming out it is Mr. Tang's alleged take on North Korea's take on the Yongbyon facilities? That is very Good News.

Merry Christmas to anybody reading this in the right time zones.


Ken said...

Japan has de facto abductee-issued itself out of the Six-Party Talks.

I keep saying this as well. Then again, so has Gerald Curtis. But the problem is that Norimitsu Onishi also said so, and agreeing with him (even by coincidence) just isn't cool in the blogosphere.

It's amazing how many people keep arguing that Japan should be bringing up the abduction issue at the six party talks, and when you say they shouldn't, they come up with the old, tired, "Don't you care that people were kidnapped?" line.

Jun Okumura said...


Ask most Japanese businessmen and bureacrats, and many conservative politicians as well, and they will agree in private that the abductee issue has clouded Japanese diplomacy. But the issue does resonate emotionally, and the media has taken the very personal, tragic elements and run with the story.

I believe that if and when pigs fly and there is a real nuclear deal on the table, the media will begin tacking, to bring public opinion in line.

Ken said...

Of course the media has run with the story - they've been goaded by the government at every turn of the way. I personally don't think the forcing NHK to broadcast on the abductions on their international radio programs matters much (since no one listens to it), but it is a huge affront to the free press and shows the limits that the kantei is willing to go to in order to pursue their own objectives.

And you're right - I talk to lots of Japanese businesspeople every day (no politicians though) - in private (in an izakaya) many say say the issue has hurt diplomatic efforts. But, businessmen's opinions don't count, right?

Jun Okumura said...

"Of course the media has run with the story - they've been goaded by the government at every turn of the way"?

That's where you (as well as many other people including this guy) and I differ. I've always believed that it was the government that had to run with the media, not the other way around. And the media itself reflected the public response to the revelation. The equation has changed somewhat under the current administration, but even now it’s more a matter of the media (and the government) following a preexisting narrative than being goaded by an opportunistic government.

People tend to think the government has taken a hard line from the earliest stages because Shinzo Abe was on the scene at the beginning and was led to the premiership on the strength of his identification with the abductees. But from the beginning of the process, Junichiro Koizumi, as the prime minister, sought normalization of ties with North Korea as his legacy. It was only after his return to Japan (armed with a joint statement, no less) and in the face of almost total aversion to the revelations that the abductees issue overwhelmed all other considerations and has continued to dominate our actions at every turn. And Mr. Koizumi never completely abandoned that goal.

Incidentally, whatever Mr. Abe had in mind, he never let his dissatisfaction with Mr. Koizumi's attempts at rapprochement on North Korea boil over into outright revolt. Mr. Abe's pragmatism (facility at political expediency if you don't like him, but he's a very likeable man) was also evident when he ultimately went along with Mr. Koizumi's postal system reform package. I believe that this ability to go along without coming across as unprincipled is one of the reasons why Mr. Abe has few if any outright enemies within the LDP.


If one of those izakayas is the Shin-Hinomoto, then we may have seen each other.

Jun Okumura said...

And yes, the NHK deal is a PR fiasco, and a possible misuse of the legal authority that was used to justify that particular order. However, that pales in comparison to the question of what business the government has in owning the largest piece of real estate in mass, audiovisual media in a democracy. I can't quite make up my own mind on that one, becuase there's having-your-cake-and--trying-to-eat-it issue here.

Back to the order, in terms of domestic politics, it's a way of doing something about it when you can't do anything about it.