Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Where Did the Abductees Issue Become Part of the Response to the WMDs?

The Japanese Government issues an annual report titled: Report on the Government's Undertaking Concerning the Tackling of the Abductees Issue and Other Issues of Human Rights Violations by the North Korean Authorities
The report states its purpose at the very beginning:

"This document reports on the Government's undertaking concerning the tackling of the abductees issue and other issues of human rights violations by the North Korean authorities pursuant to the provision of The Act Concerning the Tackling of the Abductees Issue and Other Issues of Human Rights Violations by the North Korean Authorities (Act No. 96, 2006 Jun. 23)."

The first section of: Part 2. Abductees Chapter 1, Section 1. Domestic Undertakings; in its entirety:

(1) Measures Implemented against North Korea

In light of the launching of a ballistic missile by North Korea on July 5, 2006, the Government announced a set of measures such as forbidding the Mangyongbong 92, a North Korean cargo-passenger ship to entering [Japanese] ports, and tightening examinations on entries from North Korea. Moreover, when North Korea announced on October 9 the implementation of a nuclear test, [the Government] decided to forbid all North Korea-registered ships from entering [Japanese] ports, and decided the implementation of measures including a ban on the import of all categories of products from North Korea. These measures decided by comprehensively considering the various aspects of the situation including the fact that North Korea is not showing any sincere response to the abductees issue.

The text leaves the impression that the Government took the abductees issue into consideration on both occasions in determining the measures to be taken. In fact, there is no other reasonable interpretation. However, according to the 2006.07.05 press announcement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Shinzo Abe):

The launching of the ballistic missile or flying object [I like that; launching of a flying object] by North Korea directly concerns our country's security and is to be greatly alarmed about. Moreover, this case violates the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration and is incompatible with the Joint Declaration at the Six-Party talks, and is to be greatly regretted as well from the viewpoint of peace and safety of the international society and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. From this point of view, it is necessary to give a steadfast, severe response to North Korea and we have decided to take the following substantive measures".

On July 5, there was no mention of the abductees issue. For that, we must turn to the next set of sanctions, three months later, the occasion of the nuclear test. On October 11, the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Yasuhisa Shiozaki) gave a danwa, or "talk". Here's the text in its entirety:

The National Security Council was held from 21 hours for approximately 20 minutes. As the result, I would like to allowed to announce our country's response for the time being pertaining to the nuclear test by North Korea.

Concerning the nuclear test by North Korea, we already clarified the position of our country by a declaration by the Chief Cabinet Secretary on the 9th.

Subsequently, the Government had considered our country's response; and, comprehensively taking into consideration the various elements of the situation including the fact that the Japan Meteorological Agency detected seismic waves different from the shapes of waves from a normal natural earthquake, that it is recognized that, in conjunction with the development of missiles by North Korea, that the threat to our country's security has doubled, North Korea has not shown any sincere response to the abductees issue, and that talks are being conducted in the UN Security Council with a view to making a severe response by the international society as a whole; and based on the opinions of the relevant Cabinet members and on orders from the Prime Minister, we have decided to take the following severe measures against North Korea and to expeditiously take the measures necessary for their implementation, and to decide them at the Cabinet session on the 13th.

In other words, the abductees issue was inserted on the second occasion as one of the factors that determined the Japanese response to the nuclear test, and the 2006 report (issued in 2007) retroactively stamped the July measures with the abductees issue seal. Since the only significant change between July and October other than the nuclear test is that Shinzo Abe had replaced Junichiro Koizumi as Prime Minister, the logical conclusion is that the addition was made at the order of Prime Minister Abe or someone who understood his desires. (The text itself bears the marks of careful calibration by the bureaucracy, but the thought is clearly of political origin.)

I had – mistakenly, it turns out – assumed that the sanctions had been in response to the WMD and missile delivery system issues, But it turns out that, because of the decision to insert the abductees issues on the occasion of the response to the nuclear tests, if and when (a very, very big "if and when") the Six-Party talks move forward and lifting/easing sanctions becomes a prerequisite, the Abe administration (another, growing, "if") will have to openly admit - it has no choice - that the abductees issue must be subsumed to the greater good of national security.

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