Focus on abductions, former CIA official says

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Japan’s priority should be to resolve the abduction issue with North Korea rather than support failing attempts to denuclearize the hermit state, the CIA’s former division chief for Asia said Friday in Tokyo.

The chances of North Korea giving up its nuclear arms development program, its only source of strategic power, “are zero,” said Art Brown, who served in the agency for 25 years and headed its operations in Asia.

The future of the six-party talks on denuclearization remains unclear, with Pyongyang reportedly ready to start reactivating its nuclear plants as early as next week.

The North has also said it will postpone setting up an investigative committee to start a new probe into what happened to the Japanese nationals abducted by the country in the 1970s and ’80s.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Brown said that the United States risks harming its relationship with Japan by asking Tokyo to put national priorities aside and back the denuclearization process.

The Japanese government should instead focus more on the abduction probe, working on the assumption that it can bring back abductees alive.

“Pulling a citizen off the shore of a country, taking them by force, abducting them . . . is a crime,” Brown said. “If a government cannot protect its people within its borders from being abducted by a foreign country, what is the role of their government?”

He also asserted that if the same thing had happened in the U.S., Washington would have gone to war within hours.

The Asia expert also touched on North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s health, acknowledging that his sources told him that the dictator had a stroke on or around Aug. 14 and that no one expected him to make a full recovery.

“Nobody has an idea” about how the succession will develop, Brown said, but he predicted that a state of disorder would ensue if Kim were to die, as many will try to protect their privileges once the dictator is gone.

“Everyone was loyal to Kim, but there is very little lateral loyalty” among those working under him, he said.

Brown resided in Japan and worked as a teacher before joining the CIA.