North Korea responds warily to LDP election victory under Abe

Kyodo

North Korea responded cautiously Monday to the Liberal Democratic Party’s landslide victory in the Dec. 16 general election and took note of prime minister-in-waiting Shinzo Abe’s hawkish stance on defense.

“The shift to the right and the rise of militarism in Japanese society have reached a serious stage,” the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, said in an analysis piece in the country’s first media reference to the House of Representatives election.

Abe is all but assured of receiving his second chance at prime minister Wednesday. The LDP president first served as prime minister from September 2006 to September 2007 before resigning suddenly after being beset by Cabinet scandals and party and medical problems.

The paper said Abe is widely known for being on “the extreme right” of the political spectrum.

Referring to the LDP’s promise to bolster Japan’s defense by upgrading the Self-Defense Forces to the National Defense Forces, the Rodong Sinmun said: “It is an issue of concern that forces that will drive Japan into militarism have won considerable support (from the Japanese public) through votes.”

“Japan’s re-aggression to Asia is approaching as reality,” it said.

Other countries are paying close attention to political developments in Japan, it added.

Officials in Pyongyang have said the incoming Japanese government’s policy toward North Korea is being closely watched..

Tokyo suspended revived talks with Pyongyang earlier this month after the Stalinist country conducted a satellite launch that many countries condemned as a long-range ballistic missile test in disguise. Such a test would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.

“Whether bilateral relations will improve will depend on Mr. Abe’s attitude toward us,” a North Korean official in charge of Japanese affairs said, expressing hope for a change from his hardline posture toward Pyongyang. “We will be closely watching the new government’s (North) Korea policy.”

Along with concern about North Korea’s nuclear arms and missile programs, Japan has the pressing task of addressing the issue of Pyongyang’s past abductions of Japanese nationals. The two countries do not have diplomatic relations.