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Abe Not True Champion for North Korea Abductees

SNA (Tokyo) — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe originally rose to power through his proximity to the families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, and they would seem to have long laid claim to a fair share of his attention. Evidently, however, Abe tends to hear the voices of the abductee families only when they happen to match his own hardline views.

For example, Toru Hasuike—brother of Kaoru, who was abducted in 1978 and returned to Japan in 2002—advises that Japan should negotiate with North Korea and warns: “Don’t get in a war with these people.” Kaoru Hasuike himself continues to urge Abe to visit North Korea personally and to pursue direct diplomacy. Toru writes, “My brother is one of a very small number of people familiar with the politics, culture, and society—every aspect—of both Japan and North Korea.”

Abe has not been to North Korea as prime minister, in contrast to Junichiro Koizumi who went twice, in 2002 and 2004.

Then there’s Sakie Yokota. No symbol of the abductions is more potent to the public than that of Sakie’s daughter Megumi, abducted at the young age of thirteen and since said by North Korea to have taken her own life—a claim that many in Japan view with skepticism. Megumi’s grieving mother has long pleaded for negotiations, imploring Abe to sit down and speak face-to-face with Kim Jong-Un.

Nevertheless, Abe appears to be fully in alignment with US President Donald Trump, a man who told the United Nations General Assembly that he might be pushed to “totally” destroy North Korea, and has repeatedly boasted about his power to choose the nuclear option—about which his understanding has been called into question even by one of his own advisors.

None of this contributes in any appreciable way to Abe’s proclaimed devotion to bringing Japanese abductees safely home. Presumably, any remaining abductees in North Korea would themselves perish in Trump’s total destruction of the nation.

For example, what about Takeshi Terakoshi? Japan declared in 2011 that Terakoshi and his two uncles, who vanished in 1963 when they were out fishing, were not to be considered abductees. When it was first revealed in 1987 that Terakoshi was alive and living in North Korea, and he subsequently declared that he had not been “abducted” but was in fact rescued from a shipwreck, this was immediately and suspiciously followed by a promotion to a better lifestyle in his new impoverished homeland, including a move to Pyongyang.

Terakoshi may in fact have been rescued and not abducted. But even if the latter is true, nothing less than a rapprochement would enable him to communicate his feelings freely. In contrast, doing something like, for example, eradicating 75% of Pyongyang for the second time in a century would only endanger Terakoshi’s life, and the lives of other Japanese nationals abducted by and living in North Korea, if indeed any still remain, as the Japanese government asserts.

Shinzo Abe may have built his early political career on the championing of the abductee families, but in the end it appears that he is more interested in the issue for the purpose of hardening Japanese public attitudes towards the North Korean regime than in designing policies that are genuinely in the best interests of the victims and their families.

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