Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Non Verbal In Pyongyang

Iijima Isao, Koizumi Jun'ichiro's public relations wizard brought back into the Prime Minister's Residence by a suitably chastened Abe Shinzo, whose previous turn as Prime Minister shuddered from one P.R. disaster to the next, arrived in Pyongyang, luggage in hand (a kahuna who carries his own bags, wonderful!) for a big time official meeting with North Korean officials.

How do we know that this is a big time official visit?

Look at the lapel.

Iijima has his Prime Minister's Residence service badge on.

Oh, Iijima could have forgotten to take the badge off before leaving the plane. However, such an oversight is unlikely, given that the symbolism master was traveling to Pyongyang -- where the lapel badge is EVERYTHING.

An aside, but for a bald, fat dude, Iijima rocks the two-toned dress shirt look.

In all seriousness, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo spent a significant chunk of time during his exceedingly brief Diet Policy Speech promising a resolution of the North Korean abductees issue. With Iijima on the case in and heads rolling in Pyongyang, perhaps Abe was not, as I assumed at the time of the policy speech, just blowing smoke about a resolution of the abduction conundrum.

Prepare to be surprised. Nay, astonished.

Later - An earlier version of this post was published without the photo image. Apologies.

Screen grab courtesy: NHK


Philippe said...

Why should I be surprised, let alone ‘astonished’? ‘A’ deal has long been in the air ( I suspect the talks between the Noda administration and N.Korea were much further along than one thinks, the current admin just picked up the pieces). Behind all the bluster and sound bites of the recent months, there has been quite a bit of parallel talks, sometimes in co-ordination between various ‘allies’, sometimes in conflict. Whether that possible deal has real meat or is mere fluff we’ll have to see. The fact that Abe-san sends his chief PR guy makes me suspect the latter. It would allow the current Japanese government and Abe in particular to escape out of the hole they had put themselves in, though (his policy speech) by completely burying the abductees issue - close attention will probably reveal that nothing has changed…

And yes for the Abe-apologists, it will make him ‘look’ like a realist and he’ll get some brownie points ahead of this summer’s elections. And of course he’s the perfect guy to sell a fluff deal to the hard-right, after having more or less torpedoed the Koizumi deal.

MTC said...

Philippe -

1) Sending the stage manager is indicative that a really big show is in the works. Pyongyang is, after all, the greatest Potemkin village of all time.

2) That the Americansand the families of the abductees were out of the loop supports the view that the current effort is deadly serious.

We should not underestimate Abe Shinzo's desire to be seen as the greatest statesman of the century. Still smarting from the electoral defeats in 2003 and 2007, he is ready to do anything for a blowout in July -- even though, by any measure, he does not have to do diddly squat.

Philippe said...

In your point 1 - the word ‘show’, you’re more or less confirming my point -:). Abe-san goes for something ‘big’ on the envelop, with little inside. After lots of fireworks and the dust settles, we’ll be back at square one… Although. In your point 2, you mention keeping the families of the abductees out of the loop – quite evident, as the whole movement has been so deeply infiltrated by dubious characters. Better keep them out if one wants a minimum of success. Abe has a field advantage there. Given his history, he’s well placed to spin a deal to those families. As for not involving the US, yeah, that might indeed be a smart move and indicative of wanting something more serious. I’m sceptical though (… that they were kept out of it).

And then
We should not underestimate Abe Shinzo's desire to be seen as the greatest statesman of the century
Luckily the century is still young! I’m mildly optimistic there will be a few more worthwhile contenders for the title over the next 86.5 years.

Bottom line is this, then: I can see lots of reason why North Korea may be open to some deal with Japan. But can Abe-san offer something substantial in return, other than a shipment of the US rice that currently goes to waste in some Japanese warehouse and a summit? Something beyond a photo-op that would build a more lasting legacy?