Japan, North Korea begin new round of talks in Sweden

Here is my latest story in NK News. Many thanks to Hideshi Takesada-sensei and Lee Young-hwa-sensei for giving me precious comments.


Japan, North Korea begin new round of talks in Sweden

DPRK and Japan hold three days of talks with the hope of normalizing diplomatic relations

May 26th, 2014

Kosuke Takahashi

Japan and North Korea on Monday began a new round of official talks to normalize diplomatic relations in Stockholm, Sweden.

The three-day talks followed the previous round held in late March in Beijing. As with the Beijing session, the Japanese delegation is led by Junichi Ihara, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at the Japanese Foreign Ministry, and Song Il Ho, Pyongyang’s ambassador for normalizing relations with Japan.

“Japan has imposed various sanctions on North Korea in cooperation with the international community,” Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on Monday at a speech at Chuo University in Tokyo.

“Considering North Korea’s current difficult circumstances, we have achieved some positive results, and those pressures led to a resumption of official talks,” Kishida said.

Kishida also said that Japan will consider lifting some sanctions on North Korea in phases depending on whether Pyongyang shows concrete efforts to solve the long-standing issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents in late 1970s and early 80s.

In previous sessions, the Japanese delegation has demanded that North Korea launch a fresh investigation into the fate of those abducted Japanese nationals. Pyongyang on the other hand, maintains its stand that the abduction issue has already been resolved.

In August 2008, the two nations agreed to complete a re-investigation into the Japanese abductees in North Korea, But then prime minister Yasuo Fukuda abruptly resigned. Negotiations on the abduction issue have stalled and no action has taken since then.

“Other than Japan, North Korea has a strained relationship with other nations such as South Korea and the US,” Hideshi Takesada, an expert on regional security at Takushoku University in Tokyo, told NK News on Monday. “So it must be serious enough to respond to Japan’s demand this time.”

“By holding negotiations with Japan, Pyongyang is also trying to make President Park Geun-hye’s administration feel unpleasant intentionally,” Takesada pointed out.

Lee Young-hwa, an expert on Korea and an economics professor at Kansai University in Osaka, disagreed with Takesada’s views.

Lee said North Korea has improved relations with China, which soured following the execution of Jang Song Thaek last December, damaging Japan’s improving ties with Pyongyang.

“Japan-North Korea negotiations will stall sooner or later,” said Lee, who is a third-generation ethnic Korean resident of Japan.

In Stockholm, Pyongyang is expected to call on the Japanese government to block the sale of the Tokyo headquarters building of Chongryon, the main pro-North Korea organization in Japan.

The Tokyo High Court recently dismissed the appeal filed by Chongryon against the sale of the building and land to Marunaka Holdings, a property investment company based in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture in western Japan.

“Pyongyang will bring up this thorny issue at negotiating table to kill negotiations,” Lee also said.

Takesada took a different view by saying “the sale of Chongryon’s headquarters is not something which will cause Pyongyang to kill negotiations with Japan.”

Picture: Abhimanyu, Flickr Creative Commons
posted by Kosuke at 02:43| Comment(0) | NK News


Japan mulling plans for QRF units based on southwest islands


Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan mulling plans for QRF units based on southwest islands

Kosuke Takahashi, Tokyo - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

20 May 2014

Japan is considering putting QRF on a number of its southwestern islands. (IHS/David Playford)
Japan could establish new Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) bases garrisoned with quick reaction force (QRF) units on some of its islands in the southwest Nansei chain by fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018).

Officials at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the JGSDF confirmed to IHS Jane's on 21 May that it is considering setting up new GSDF bases to house QRF troops on Amami Oshima island in Kagoshima Prefecture and on the islands of Miyakojima and Ishigakijima, which are both located in Okinawa Prefecture. The plans were first reported in The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

The JGSDF units would be responsible for taking the lead in defending surrounding islands, including uninhabited islands. "We have not decided where to set up those security forces yet," a JGSDF official said. "We may create new security forces on some or all of those islands."

MoD officials said the new units would be similar to the lightly armed JGSDF Tsushima Area Security Force, which comprises about 350 personnel and is based on Tsushima, an island between the Korean peninsula and Kyushu in the Sea of Japan.

They also clarified that the new units would be different from a planned 3,000-strong marine corps specialising in amphibious operations, which is being trained to regain control of an island captured by foreign forces. The units are also separate from a planned JGSDF coastal observation unit that is to be based on Yonaguni island.

The FY 2014-18 Mid-Term Defense Program, adopted in December 2013 along with new National Defense Program Guidelines, outlines plans to create the rapid response units in the Nansei island chain. The MoD allocated JPY50 million (USD 493,106) during FY 2013 and JPY60 million during FY 2014 respectively for studies and research to find possible sites.

Okinawa's Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper reported on 20 May that the MoD has narrowed the possible locations of the units to Amami Oshima, Miyakojima, and Ishigakijima because they have relatively large populations and well-established lifeline utilities.

The establishment of new units is designed to bolster the nation's defensive posture in its southwest and in particular to be prepared for potential "grey zone" security challenges posed by China.

Officials in Tokyo are involved in major discussions on how to respond to armed incidents that fall short of a full-scale attack on the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. Hypothetical scenarios they are examining include the landing on the disputed islands of Chinese special forces disguised as fishermen.

(412 words)
posted by Kosuke at 18:10| Comment(0) | Jane's Defence Weekly

The Guardian picks up my story on Antonio Inoki


The Guardian has picked up my story on Antonio Inoki. This is my debut in The Guardian.

North Korea to hold international pro-wrestling contest

Event in August will be jointly organised with Japanese wrestler and politician Antonio Inoki. NK News reports

Kosuke Takahashi for NK News, part of the North Korea network

theguardian.com, Monday 19 May 2014 17.11 BST

Yun Won-chol of North Korea wrestles with South Korea's Choi Gyujin.
North Korean Greco-Roman wrestler Yun Won-chol fights with South Korea's Choi Gyujin. Photograph: Antonio Olmos

North Korea’s state news agency has said it will host an international pro wrestling event in Pyongyang in late August.

The contest will be jointly organised by Kanji Inoki, better known as Antonio Inoki, currently a member of the upper house of Japan’s government and, famously, a former professional wrestler himself. Inoki, 71, will be partnering with North Korea’s International Martial Arts Games Committee Chairman Jang Ung to organise the event, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Monday.

“World famous pro wrestlers from Japan, the US and other countries will take part in the contest to be held under the theme of independence, peace and friendship,” the North’s state news agency said.

Inoki visited the North in January and met with Kim Yong-il, secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea in charge of international affairs, and exchanged views on a possible future sports exchange event in Pyongyang.

This is not the first time Inoki has organised a wrestling event in Pyongyang. He put together a similar event in April 1995, reportedly attracting about 380,000 local attendees over two days.

Inoki has maintained connections with North Korea because his former pro wrestling master Rikidozan– a national hero in Japan in the wake of its defeat in World War II – originally came from South Hamgyong province, North Korea. Kim Yong-suk, Rikidozan’s daughter in Pyongyang later married Pak Myong-chol, a former Minister of Physical Culture and Sports and councillor in the National Defense Commission (NDC), thus deepening ties with Inoki.

Rikidozan found and scouted Inoki, then 17, in 1960 in Brazil during his professional wrestling tour to São Paulo. Inoki’s family had immigrated to Brazil when he was 13.

This announcement comes as Japan and North Korea have been aiming to improve their strained bilateral relations. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday told reporters in Tokyo that the government-level talks will take place on 26 May for two days in Stockholm, Sweden. He said the Japanese government is seeking to speed up discussions on Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korean agents in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

The two countries had their first official talks in 16 months in March in Beijing.
posted by Kosuke at 02:12| Comment(0) | The Guardian