Japan, North Korea agree to first government talks since late 2012

Here is my latest story in NK News.


Japan, North Korea agree to first government talks since late 2012

Shift to diplomacy from confrontation seen in Pyongyang's recent acts

March 20th, 2014

Kosuke Takahashi

After more than a year of deadlock, Japan and North Korea on Thursday agreed to resume official government talks over kidnapped Japanese citizens and Pyongyangfs nuclear and missile programs.

gBoth nations agreed to coordinate (efforts) in a direction to resume intergovernmental talks,h a spokeswoman for the Japanese Foreign Ministry told NK News on Thursday.

gA schedule has yet to be decided for the next talks.h

The agreement was reached as foreign ministry officials from the two nations held their unofficial meeting on March 19-20 in Shenyang, China on the sidelines of Red Cross talks on returning the remains of Japanese who died toward the end of World War II in what is now North Korea.


The move came as Pyongyang is attempting to pursue a policy of multi-directional diplomacy towards its neighbors such as Japan and South Korea|apparently to ease economic sanctions imposed by the international community after a series of missile and nuclear tests.

gNorth Koreafs policies are shifting to place more and more emphasis on the central party, the economy and its dialogue diplomacyh rather than the traditional military-first, confrontational approach, Masao Okonogi, emeritus professor at Keio University in Tokyo said at a seminar in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Hwang Jihwan, an assistant professor of International Relations at University of Seoul, echoed Okonogifs views.

gPyongyangfs dialogue approach is likely to continue at least two or three yearsh as Kim Jong Un is pursuing the policy of parallel nuclear and economic advancement, Hwang said at the same seminar at Keio University.

Japan-North Korea negotiations have essentially been frozen since November 2012 following Pyongyangfs pre-announcement on the launch of the second version of the Kwangmyeongseong-3 satellite, which uses virtually the same technology as a long-range missile test.

Picture: World Economic Forum, Flickr Creative Commons
posted by Kosuke at 03:29| Comment(0) | NK News


My latest in NK News: Kim Jong Unfs sister and Megumi Yokotafs daughter worked together – reports


Kim Jong Unfs sister and Megumi Yokotafs daughter worked together – reports

Abduction victim's daughter may have known Kim Yo Jong from Kim Il Sung University

March 18th, 2014

Kosuke Takahashi

Japanese media on Tuesday reported that the younger sister of North Koreafs leader may have worked with the daughter of a high-profile Japanese abduction victim.

Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Unfs younger sister and Kim Eun Gyong, daughter of Megumi Yokota, abducted by North Korea in 1977, may have worked together at a key government institution in Pyongyang last year after graduating from the same university.

The Yomiuri Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun, among other media, said Kim Yo Jong and Kim Eun Gyong, both aged 26, graduated from Kim Il Sung University and both majored in computer science. The newspapers quoted Choi Sung-yong, head of the Representative of the Abducteesf Family Union, a South Korean civic group working for the release of South Korean abductees by the North, as a specific news source.

South Koreafs JoongAng Ilbo quoted Choi as saying Kim Eun Gyong still gis working withh Kim Yo Jong and gis being protected by the ruling dynasty.h

The JoongAng said Yokotafs daughter gis a member of the top elite in North Korea, working with Kim Yo Jong in the same department.h Kim Yo Jong herself recommended Kim Eun Gyong for the job and they have been working together at ga core organizationh in Pyongyang, it reported.

gThe leaderfs sister is taking care of her,h Choi was quoted as saying by the South Korean newspaper. gThat means North Korea appears to supervise Kim Eun Gyong. For North Korea, she is a precious bargaining chip in diplomacy with Japan.h

The parents of Megumi Yokota on Monday said that they refrained from talking about Megumifs whereabouts with their granddaughter while spending five days at a guesthouse in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator earlier this month.


They said they received no new information about the fate of their daughter, raising speculation that they may want to protect their granddaughterfs life.

g(Eun Gyong) has her position to consider,h said Yokotafs father Shigeru, 81. gEven if (she) knew something, she wouldnft be able to say much about it. She just said (Megumi) kind of died according to the (North Korean) government.h

g(We) did not make the meeting a place involving political issues,h Sakie Yokota, 78, said. gWe just wanted to have a reunion of relatives in a peaceful and heartwarming atmosphere. I have kind of touched upon (about Megumi) in a roundabout way, but we donft know how far that is true. So (I) thought itfs better not to talk about it.h

The Yokotas also said they did not talk about Megumifs former husband, Kim Young Nam, the father of Eun Gyong.

Kenji Fujimoto, a former personal sushi chef for Kim Jong Il, has told NK News that Megumi may have been a Japanese language tutor for Kim Jong Un and (Kim Jong Ilfs second son) Kim Jong Chol.

Picture of Kim Yo Jong: The KCNA
Picture of Kim Eun Gyong: Government of Japan
posted by Kosuke at 03:43| Comment(0) | NK News


I was interviewed by Ukraine media about Japanfs stance on the Ukraine crisis


I was interviewed by Ukraine media about Japanfs stance on the Ukraine crisis.

I said Japan shares Ukraine's pain as both nationsf sovereignty has been infringed upon by Russia.

Russian occupation of Crimea: Japanese share the pain of Ukraine (English version)

Qіz{p {pі Ky}: ~і tі| qі| T{pї~y (Ukrainian version)

Russian occupation of Crimea: Japanese share the pain of Ukraine
18-03-2014 10:23

Kosuke Takahashi is a Tokyo-based journalist. His work has appeared in the Asahi Shimbun, Bloomberg, Asia Times, Jane's Defence Weekly and The Diplomat, among other publications. You can follow him on Twitter @TakahashiKosuke

- Mr. Takahashi, Russia has attacked Ukraine. Takes away the Ukrainian Crimea to itself. How react today in Japan on occupation of Ukraine?

- As a G7 nation Japan has condemned Russian's act of aggression repeatedly, supporting the current Ukrainian government.

Most recently, Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida on March 11 told Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the phone that Japan cannot accept a change in the status quo by force. Kishida urged Lavrov to start talks with Ukraine on resolving the Crimean crisis.

Also, the head of the secretariat of Japan's newly established National Security Council, Shotaro Yachi, met Lavrov in Moscow on March 12. Yachi told Lavrov that Russia should talk directly with Ukraine's interim government and stressed the importance of ending the crisis peacefully.

- Russia occupied and territory of Japan. Whether there can be here analogies from Ukraine?

- It is the same in terms of the fact that Russia infringed on both nations� sovereignty. Actually Japan is the only nation among G7 nations whose national sovereignty has been infringed upon by Russia. We Japanese can share the pain together with Ukraine.

- The president of Russia does not pay attention to the international laws. Whether it is possible to stop it?

- Frankly speaking, it should be very hard for the rest of the world to stop Russia at this moment. Putin calculated every risk in advance.

First, as far as I have talked to Russian diplomats in the past, generally speaking I found they dont believe the principles of international law strongly. They say that superpowers, especially the US, have resorted to unilateral action against smaller nations many times in the past.

The problem is that we dont have the world government to punish nations which act against international laws. There are no compulsory measures such as the world police. Russians are realists. They are well aware of this incomplete world system. For them, power talks.

Second, Russian President Putin advocates the revival of Great Russia and the idea of Eurasian Union. For Putin, without Ukraine, he cannot achieve his ambition.

Third, Western industrialized nations, such as Germany and Japan, and Russian have developed closer economic relationships with one another, so it should be very tough for the West to implement economic sanctions on Russia without causing major side effects.

Fourth, the US Obama administration has been very reluctant to strongly intervene in world affairs, such as in Syria and Iran. Putin thinks of Obama as weak-kneed.

Knowing all of these factors above, Putin is adopting a very belligerent stance, I think.

- Mr. Takahashi, can Japan and Ukraine to unite the efforts to stop Russian occupation of their territories?

- Japan and Ukraine can unite to appeal strongly to peoples of the world over Russian's encroachment of the two nations' sovereignty, but it should be difficult to stop Russian occupation of their territories. Japan is also in a difficult position now.

Japan has become the world's top importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident led to shut down all nuclear power stations. Now Japan uses a third of the world's LNG shipments, with 10 percent of its LNG imports coming from Russia. More than a few experts in Japan believe economic sanctions against Russia will likely have major side effects on the lives of Japanese citizens.

Also, since Japan's relations with China and South Korea have relations plummeted to the lowest level in the post-war period, for Tokyo better relations with Moscow are needed.

In addition, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also attaches importance to a personal relationship of trust with Putin as they have met five times since they met in April 2013, which marked the first such meeting in the last ten years.

- But the question of the Japanese annexation of territories and Russia is still open?

- The current Ukraine crisis, however, can also give Tokyo a rethinking of its relations with Moscow, at a time when a certain reactionary view on the issue of a peace treaty has appeared in Russia.

This point of view represents since bilateral economic cooperation is under way even without a Japan-Russia peace treaty, such a treaty is unnecessary and there is no need to solve the problems of the ongoing dispute over the Northern Territories (known in Russia as the South Kuril Islands), which both nations claim.

The emergence of this sort of a reactionary approach in Moscow will increase Tokyo's mistrust toward Russia for sure.

Viktor Kaspruk
posted by Kosuke at 23:34| Comment(0) | Ukraine