Why Japan Is Unhappy with the U.S.
Bryan Walsh, Tokyo - Vice-President Dick Cheney may not seem like the most reassuring of people, but on his trip to Japan, which began on Feb. 20 and ends Feb. 22, that's exactly that he was tasked with doing: reassuring Tokyo that the U.S.-Japan relationship was still strong. Normally that wouldn't be a difficult mission. And today in a speech on board the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, anchored off Yokosuka Naval Base near Tokyo, Cheney declared, "Relations between our two countries have never been better than they are today." The problem is, that's not quite true.
Cheney's visit comes at a time of growing unease in Tokyo that the U.S. and Japan may be drifting apart — and North Korea is one of the main causes. While Japan under new conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has favored maintaining a hard line against Pyongyang, the U.S. was seen by some here as backing down at the recent Six-Party Talks, which culminated in an agreement that will give North Korea up to 1 million tons in fuel aid in exchange for shutting down its nuclear program.
Significantly, Japan refused to contribute to the aid unless progress is made on its core issue, the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and '80s. While the Bush Administration publicly supports Japan's focus on abductions, it didn't escape notice in Tokyo that the issue took a clear backseat to denuclearization at the talks — and that the U.S. raised the possibility of removing North Korea from its list of terrorism-sponsoring states, something Japan vociferously opposes. "Japan felt betrayed," says Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor of international relations at Tokyo's Waseda University. If Washington ignores the abduction issue, he adds, "the Japanese public will have doubts about the vitality of the U.S.-Japan alliance."
I don't think "Japan" is that unhappy...and I don't think that Shigemura-sensei speaks for Japan.
Back in the 1990s, Shigemura-sensei was right about the abductees. Unfortunately, he has never managed to get over his having been correct at that time.
Most Japanese citizens think Kim Jong-il a nutcase and a menace. Most would advocate strong, severe measures against the DPRK, including a total cessation of economic relations between the two countries.
Most Japanese, however, would probably also agree that the abductees's families have far too much access to the airwaves (NHK television, despite not being directly subject to Suga Yoshihide's order, nevertheless needs to change its call letters to RHK--since the fall it really has become the Racchijikenmondai Hōsō Kyōkai) and to the Prime Minister's Residence (honestly, they must have their own Kantei IDs and quarterly kōtsūhi payments).
Most Japanese would rather have the DPRK's missiles and nuclear facilities under lock and key than continuing the game of holding out until a full accounting is made of what happened to those who did not return from the North (let's face it, if it is a secret the DPRK is not willing to reveal, it is very, very ugly secret indeed).
If you did a global replace to the article, transmuting the anthropomorphic references to "Japan" ("Japan" is unhappy; "Japan" feels betrayed) into the more leaden phrase "Prime Minister Abe and his close advisors and supporters"--then Mr. Walsh's report would be spot on.