October 05, 2021

Will Japan’s Kishida Take Relations With the Koreas in a New Direction?

By Jason Bartlett

The Japanese Diet recently elected longtime top diplomat Kishida Fumio as the country’s next prime minister. While a seasoned negotiator with both Pyongyang and Seoul, Prime Minister Kishida will likely maintain a typical Japanese approach toward the two Koreas.

Kishida follows a common political path in Japan in approaching the two Koreas: seek apology and clarity from Pyongyang on the abduction issue while refusing to offer additional apologies to Seoul for war crimes. During his tenure as foreign affairs minister from late 2012 to 2017, Kishida negotiated with Pyongyang alongside both conservative and liberal U.S. and South Korean administrations. Under U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Kishida supported a hardline approach to North Korean human rights issues and nuclear proliferation, highlighting that “Japan would not be able to normalize diplomatic relations with North Korea” without first resolving the abduction issue.

While Japan-U.S. relations under Kishida will likely strengthen, Tokyo will continue to struggle with issues pertaining to the two Koreas.

During the 1970s to the 1980s, North Korea abducted large numbers of foreign nationals, including Japanese citizens, for an intelligence program aimed at preparing North Korean spies to infiltrate foreign governments through forced foreign language instruction. Kishida attempted to resolve this issue during a meeting with then-North Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Su Yong in 2015, but it remains a major unattained foreign policy goal for Tokyo.

Read the full article from The Diplomat.

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