Over at 38North, the place for all things DPRK, Dr. Sheila Smith has up a long post on the new Abe Cabinet-DPRK agreement to reopen the investigation into the fates of Japanese either kidnapped or purportedly kidnapped by North Koreans or Japanese Red Army terrorists in the 1970s. (Link)
Four points to help fill out her narrative:
- What ultimately sank the Koizumi initiative on normalization was not a loss of public support for engagement with Pyongyang. It was the Japanese government's reneging on the agreement to return the living abductees to North Korea after a series of family visits. By keeping the five, deprogramming them and allowing the abductee lobby to use them as cudgels against the DPRK (and against any post-Abe government that tried to circumvent the abductee lobby to engage Pyongyang) Japan taught the DPRK a lesson in bloody-minded double-crossing -- something that Kim Jong-il thought he knew everything about.
- After Iijima Isao paid his very public visit to Pyongyang (Link) the chattering classes in Washington and New York mocked him, saying he had been used as a propaganda tool of the North Koreans to no gain. For that derision there has been no apology, nor will there be any. Furthermore, Iijima's lesson on how one gets the ball rolling with the DPRK will be ignored.
- While support for the abductees is wide, one should not be too certain of its depth. Like the current emnity for Chinese and South Koreans (distinct from emnity felt toward the Xi and Park governments) outrage over the abductees is mostly a pose, a feeling one is supposed to feel. A maudlin minority of miscontents and dupes shows up at abductee events. In public opinion polls, the majority of voters express inextinguishable anger. Altogether, though these items do not add up to much in the way of a public movement.
- Ergo: there is no public to punish the Abe 2.0 Cabinet if this initiative fails to bear fruit. The abductees issue is private business, owned by a coterie of Diet members of which Abe Shinzo is a charter member. The issue has been managed for the purpose of humiliating and boxing in administrations, this in order to pave the way for a return of a revisionist government. That the person in charge of that government is Abe Shinzo, the man the abductee issue first made prime minister, pretty much guarantees that when the Pyongyang investigators find nothing new, the response in Japan will be a dull thud.
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