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Tokyo tries to keep a brave face on the agreements reached at last week’s six-nation talks in Beijing aimed at putting an end to North Korea’s nuclear development plans. But no amount of strong talk about refusing any direct participation in aid or other concessions to North Korea unless Pyongyang accepts Tokyo’s demands on the “abductee issue” can disguise the fact that Japan is in breach of an important international agreement even before the ink has dried on it.

Nor can it disguise the extent of the embarrassing knockback it has suffered at the hands of its ally, the United States.

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