Iijima-Kim Meeting Insult To Seoul

17 May

Isao Iijima and Kim Yong-nam in PyongyangIt’s not true Tokyo didn’t warn either the United States or South Korea about former Junichiro Koizumi aide and current special advisor to Shinzo Abe, Isao Iijima’s trip to meet with Kim Yong-nam, because United States special representative for North Korea policy, Glyn Davies, just found out about it, after the fact. Is Iijima just a more respectable version of Eric Schmidt or Bill Richardson? At least Iijima has a track record.

“I have begun the process of learning a bit more about (Iijima’s trip),” Davies told reporters after meeting with Shinsuke Sugiyama, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.

“I think we have some days to wait for all of us before we know there are any results from this mission . . . we obviously will look forward to hearing from the government of Japan more details about this in (the) coming days,” he said.

While South Korea has criticized the Japanese move as “not helpful,” given the importance of coordinating a united front by Washington, Seoul and Tokyo against Pyongyang, Davies said, “I’m not going to address it in that way.”

Reiterating that Washington takes the abduction issue very seriously and stands “firmly” with Japan and its people, he said he wants to put the “accent” on the strength and solidarity of bilateral ties.

“I hope that in that spirit, the United States and Japan can continue to work together very closely on this exceedingly important issue of North Korea in all of its aspects going forward,” he said.

During Thursday’s meeting, Sugiyama and Davies agreed that the door to dialogue with North Korea is always open, but that it should be aimed at denuclearization, the Foreign Ministry said.

The Japanese and U.S. point men on North Korean affairs also agreed on the importance of closely coordinating moves by Japan, the United States and South Korea to bring North Korea back into negotiations to end its nuclear arms threat, according to the ministry.

Davies conceded to reporters after the meeting that Iijima’s trip was news to him, saying, “I had not heard about it, so I think that answer that I gave speaks for itself in terms of the extent to which there had been any coordination ahead of time.”

See? No problem between Tokyo and Washington! And, we all know, Tokyo has Seoul’s best interests at heart. Hankyoreh reports from Japanese newspapers, that Iijima is shopping for more than just abductees.

There are rumors that Abe wishes to visit North Korea in June, and these recent statements could reflect what he hopes to accomplish on that visit.

But it remains in question whether Pyongyang will follow Abe’s calculation. The Sankei Shimbun newspaper offered its own analysis of Iijima’s decision to stay in Pyongyang until May 18 after arriving there on May 14: “His stay was extended because no schedule was set for a meeting with a North Korean official more senior than Song Il-ho, its [bureau chief-level] ambassador for negotiations on the normalization of diplomatic relations,” the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, the Rodong Sinmun, which is the newspaper of the Workers’ Party of (North) Korea, commented in a May 15 piece that it would be a “wise choice for [Japan] to start now in adopting a rational approach to addressing past issues.” This suggests that Pyongyang views it as necessary to tie any negotiations with Tokyo on the abductee issue to discussion of normalizing diplomatic relations.

That would be a lot to ask from Japan, which would be hard pressed to go beyond the abductee issue and into negotiations on normalizing diplomatic relations without the agreement of South Korea or the US at a time when the international community is ratcheting up its sanctions in response to North Korea’s long-range rocket launch and nuclear tests.

At the very least, this meeting between Iijima and Kim is a rude dismissal of the Blue House’s latest offer of talks about the Kaeseong white elephant.


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