Let's discuss relations between Japan and North Korea

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Despite what appears to be good news that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is eager to hold a bilateral summit with Japan, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe remains cautious, saying there are many hurdles to be overcome.

Since Abe has said there needs to be progress on the issue of Japanese nationals abducted decades ago by North Korean agents, he cannot simply meet with Kim without any guarantee that the summit will bear fruit.

“If we agree to a summit with no prerequisites (on the abduction issue), they will ignore it and instead demand compensation over past history,” a senior official at the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The government, mainly the Foreign Ministry, is now secretly debating what kind of progress will need to be in place in order to hold a summit with North Korea.

One idea is for Pyongyang to confirm a 2014 bilateral agreement that stipulates North Korea will investigate the issue of abductees, something which it began but abruptly stopped after Japan imposed unilateral sanctions in 2016 following a series of nuclear tests by the North.

But with diplomatic channels effectively frozen, there is no way Japan can verify what Kim really has in mind.

“There’s nothing we can do until after the summit between the U.S. and North Korea is over,” said another Foreign Ministry official.

There’s also a growing skepticism against South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his government.

When Moon told Abe in a telephone call Sunday that Kim is ready to hold bilateral talks with Tokyo, Abe refrained from disclosing the information because Tokyo is unable to independently verify Kim’s remark.

The Abe administration had apparently intended to keep it a secret until the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim, when it should get more information about what Kim has in mind.

First published in The Japan Times on April 29.

Warm up

One-minute chat about any doubts you might have.


Collect words related to diplomacy, e.g., international, negotiation, administration.

New words

1) bilateral: an action done by two sides, e.g., The two teams decided on a bilateral solution.

2) unilateral: an action by one side, e.g., Canada moved unilaterally to fund the project.

3) abduct: kidnap, e.g., The boy was abducted on his way home from school.

Guess the headline

With too many unknowns, Abe administration c _ _ _ _ _ _ _ about any s _ _ _ _ _ with Kim


1) What is the current situation between Japan and North Korea?

2) What does Prime Minister Abe think is needed before meeting with Kim?

3) Until when will Japan be silent about their plan with North Korea?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Do you think the summit between North and South Korea will be fruitful?

2) What do you think about the issue?

3) What do you think Japan should do about North Korea?






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