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N. Korea, Japan agree to investigate abductions, lift sanctions
MAY 31, 2014 04:40  
North Korea and Japan agreed to carry out a full-scale re-investigation into the abduction of Japanese citizens and lift sanctions against the North. It is understandable that Japan is seeking to resolve the abduction issue, in which Japanese people are highly interested. However, Tokyo reached an unusual agreement with Pyongyang at a sensitive time when the North is ready to conduct its fourth nuclear test any time.

Under stronger international sanctions and pressures following a series of provocations including the third nuclear test, North Korea seems to be seeking to make a breakthrough via Japan. At a time when Japan`s relations with South Korea and China are at their worst because of history and territorial issues, Japan will likely seek to resolve the abduction issue in order to increase support for the Shinzo Abe cabinet and gain momentum for its right to collective self-defense. Such calculations have led to the strange agreement in which Kim Jung Un and Abe joined hands. The agreement also suggests that the two countries are seeking to mend fences in an attempt to secure leverage over South Korea, with which both have soured relationships.

Following North Korea`s nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, Japan imposed its own sanctions on the North, separately from the United Nations-led sanctions. Tokyo also used North Korea`s threats as an excuse for increasing its military response capabilities. Therefore, it is preposterous that Japan suddenly lifts or eases sanctions although the North`s threats still remain. Japan should take a transparent and careful approach to the North in order not to disrupt the international community`s efforts to stop the North from conducting an additional nuclear test. If Tokyo`s intention is to resolve the abduction issue from humanitarian perspectives, it should also take a sincere attitude toward the World War II sex slavery issue.

It is also pitiful for North Korea to go hat-in-hand to Japan it called a "sworn enemy," while rejecting with harsh rhetoric South Korean Park Geun-hye`s offer of humanitarian aid announced in Dresden, Germany. If the North shows sincerity over the issues of South Korean prisoners of war and separated families, it will receive more assistance from Seoul as well as building inter-Korean trust. After all, improving ties with Japan will not be possible until Pyongyang gives up its nuclear program.

The Park Geun-hye administration`s diplomacy is going through an important test. In Northeast Asia, China and Russia are strengthening military cooperation against the U.S.-Japan alliance, while South Korea is under pressures from the U.S. and China over the issue of joining the U.S.-led missile defense system. The administration should cope with the swirling international political situation by finding the right people for the vacant posts of the National Security Office chief and the National Intelligence Service director.

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