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

My latest in NK News: Yokotas recall edream-likef meeting with granddaughter


Yokotas recall edream-likef meeting with granddaughter

Belief that their daughter, a victim of North Korean kidnapping, is still alive has not wavered despite meeting

March 17th, 2014

Kosuke Takahashi

The parents of Megumi Yokota, kidnapped in 1977 at age 13 by North Korea, were bursting with joy and smiles at a press conference in Kawasaki City, adjoining Tokyo, after finally meeting their granddaughter and great-grandchild.

Shigeru and Sakie Yokota met Kim Eun Gyong, 26, Megumifs daughter at a guesthouse in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator from March 10-14. Kim Eun Gyongfs husband, who is in his late twenties, accompanied her.

Previously, the Yokotas had hoped to meet Kim Eun Gyong only after the abduction issue was resolved. But since Shigeru is now 81 and Sakie is 78, they said they are running out of time and finally decided to meet her in a neutral country.

The Yokotas said it was a gdream-like momenth to spend time with their granddaughter and great-grandchild.

The Yokotas said both Kim and her husband graduated from Kim Il Sung University, the DPRKfs No. 1 institution of higher learning, with both studying computer science. He was her senior at the university, the Yokotas added.

The meeting was realized after foreign ministry officials from the two nations discussed it during their unofficial meeting earlier this month on the sidelines of Red Cross talks in Shenyang, China. Foreign ministry officials plan to meet there again this week.

Japanfs Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday said the government made efforts to make the meeting happen from a humanitarian perspective and was delighted that the Yokotas finally met their North Korean granddaughter.

Photo of Kim Eun Gyong taken by Japanese governmen delegate.png
Kim Eun Gyong circa-2002, from a picture taken by a Japanese government delegate

gIt gave me a heartwarming feeling,h Abe told reporters.

Abe said his administration will continue to make all-out efforts to solve the abduction issue.

Experts on North Korean affairs are now attempting to discern the Northfs true intentions.

Lee Young Hwa, a professor of economics at Kansai University and a third-generation Korean resident in Osaka, told NK News on Monday that North Korea is still not serious enough about thoroughly resolving the abduction issue.

Lee said that North Korea is approaching Japan and South Korea diplomatically, mainly because the execution of the pro-China Jang Song Thaek has led Beijing to decrease the flow of oil and food aid for Pyongyang since January, exacerbating the Hermit Kingdomfs economy.

gNorth Korea is using its talks with Japan and South Korea to shake Chinafs tough posture against Pyongyang,h Lee said. gThere may be some progress in Japan-North Korea negotiations, but it will be stalled again once China and North Korea mend bilateral ties.h

Lee also said by bringing about a meeting between the Yokotas and their granddaughter and great-grandchild and not addressing the fate of Megumi Yokota herself, North Korea is trying to draw the curtain on the abduction issue as swiftly as possible.

Masao Okonogi, emeritus professor at Keio University in Tokyo and a noted expert on affairs on the Korean Peninsula, echoed Leefs views, saying Pyongyang is approaching Tokyo and Seoul to obtain economic benefits.

gNorth Korea is stepping up its dialogue diplomacy,h Okonogi said. gThe North wants to ease economic sanctions from Japan and South Korea.h

Japanese experts also said that the North may want to improve its tarnished image, especially after the UN report accused North Korea of crimes against humanity last month. The report includes condemnations of the abductions as crimes against humanity under international law.

The relatives of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea will also speak at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week. It will be the first time that relatives of the abductees have attended the UN rights council since the abductions came to light.

As for the fate of Yokota Megumi, Sakie Yokota said that her belief that her daughter is alive has never wavered and she will continue to fight for saving all of the Japanese abductees.

North Korea maintains that she committed suicide in 1994, but Japanese experts are divided as to whether Megumi Yokota is still alive or not.

A Russian diplomat has told NK News that Pyongyang has shown Moscow its internal report showing Megumi is already dead. Kenji Fujimoto, late Kim Jong ilfs former personal sushi chef, also wrote in his book The Northfs Successor, Kim Jong Un that the head of the Workersf Party of Korea (WPK)fs secretaryfs office said to him, gYokota Megumi? Is she alive?h when Fujimoto visited Pyongyang in the summer of 2012 at the invitation of Kim Jong Un.

But Lee said there still is a possibility she is alive, barring conclusive evidence.

The following are excerpts from the Yokotasf press conference on Monday, held at their home in Kawasaki City, adjoining Tokyo.

Shigeru: We have seen images of Eun Gyong-san (san being a Japanese honorific) via TV, etc. many times, but it was the first time for us to meet her.

When I saw her for the first time on TV, she was around 14 or 15. But she has now grown up and became an adult. She is just a little taller than Sakie. She has a round face and therefore I thought that we come from the same family bloodline.

A 10-month-old infant, born last May, was also there. Thatfs our great-grandchild. A baby was walking with a walker at high speed around the table in a room (at a guest house in Mongolia). The baby weighs 11 kilograms, an unusually heavy weight for her age.

It was really very nice meeting them.

We had always hoped to meet her. Since we became old, we do not know when we are going to die. I am so grateful to have such a meeting.

Sakie: Thank you so much for your help. As my husband said, the baby was bouncing off the walls with the walker at high speed. The baby had a smile on her face.

It was a dream-like moment. What we had been hoping for was finally realized. Those were miraculous days. We sincerely thank the many people whose efforts were spent making arrangements for this.

I was very glad. It was very good for us that we as her grandparents could have met our grandchild. It was a wonderful and heartwarming moment.

She looks like Megumi at her young age.

Photo of Yokota Megumi released by North Korea.jpg
An adult Megumi Yokota, from a picture released by North Korea

Question: Did you receive information about the well-being of Magumi-san from her?

We did not talk about it. Even if she knows, she cannot say.

Sakie: We did not make the meeting a place involving political issues. We just wanted to have a reunion of relatives, so we have decided not to ask about her fate.

Thatfs the same situation before and after we went. There was no new information. I believe she is doing well for sure. My firm belief that Megumi is alive has never wavered.

Question: In an interview, you urged North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to settle the abduction issue as soon as possible after a UN Commission of Inquiryfs report on human rights in North Korea was published last month. Do you see any change in Kim Jong Unfs stance on this issue now?

Sakie: We do not know what North Korea will be doing from now on. The Japanese government needs to focus on how we should develop our diplomacy. I hope the government will lead in efforts to resolve the abduction issue.

Question: Did you hear about the husband of Megumi-san, the father of Eun Gyong-san?

Sakie: That was not a topic of our conversation. We did not talk about him.


Picture of Shigeru and Sakie Yokota: Kosuke Takahashi
posted by Kosuke at 02:55| Comment(0) | NK News