|North Korea trip not a winner in
By Suvendrini Kakuchi
TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro
Koizumi's summit on Tuesday with North Korean leader Kim
Jong-il may have been an ice-breaking political feat,
but it brought only heartbreak to those Japanese who got
confirmation that their kin had indeed been abducted by
Because of the uproar in Japan after
North Korea's admission for the first time that its
agents had kidnapped Japanese nationals in the 1970s and
'80s - a long-festering row between Tokyo and Pyongyang
- Koizumi took pains to speak cautiously about the
historic meeting between the two countries' leaders.
While improving ties with North Korea was
important, Koizumi said, he was "shocked" by Kim's
admission about the abductions. "My heart aches when I
consider how the families must feel," Koizumi said.
Koizumi flew into the North Korean capital at
9:15am on Tuesday for a summit with the reclusive Kim,
marking the first meeting between the two and the first
time that a Japanese head of state has visited the
At the end of the day, Koizumi
brought home astonishing news - North Korea had agreed
to an indefinite suspension of its missile program and
accepted nuclear inspections. Japan apologized for its
occupation of the Korean Peninsula in 1910-45, while
North Korea dropped its demand for war reparations.
But what has resonated in Japan is Kim's
confirmation of the abductions of Japanese nationals -
Tokyo says there were 11 of them - who were forced to
teach Pyongyang's spies how to speak Japanese and act
like Japanese in order to infiltrate the country.
Kim also said six of the abducted Japanese were
"We will not forgive the North
Koreans for this terrible crime," sobbed Shigeru Yokota,
who on Tuesday got confirmation that his daughter
Megumi, abducted on her way home from school in 1977
when she was 13, was indeed dead.
"I want North
Korea to fully investigate how Megumi went to North
Korea, how she got married, and how she died," sobbed
At least four of the kidnapped Japanese
are alive and arrangements might be made to bring them
back to Japan, said Kim. Koizumi quoted Kim as saying
the abductions had been carried out by "elements in the
Pyongyang says the abducted Japanese
perished because of either "illness or natural
Akihito Arimoto, whose daughter,
Keiko, 23, was kidnapped in 1983 while studying in
London, said: "We are also angry at the Japanese
government and also hold them responsible for the deaths
of our loved ones."
Analysts say the families'
anger and sweeping public sympathy for them have marred
Koizumi's historic trip to North Korea, despite its
larger ramifications for Asian and international
Despite Tuesday's summit, ties between
Japan and North Korea, frosty and suspicious for
decades, are unlikely to warm overnight.
is no doubt the Japanese government will be hampered in
its attempts to normalize relations with North Korea
because of the terrible news of the abductions," said
Professor Masao Okonogi, an expert on the Korean
Peninsula at Keio University.
in Pyongyang was kept low-key, and Kim was not present
to greet him. When the two finally appeared publicly
before the cameras, they looked tense.
joint communique issued by the two leaders, they spelled
out a deal that, if carried out smoothly, promises to
usher in a new era for the two countries with the
promise of regional stability.
The broad accord
not only covered the abductions, but two other
contentious issues - the freezing of North Korea's
missile program and its acceptance of nuclear
Koizumi, despite his somber
expression after the news of the abductions, stated
clearly during a news conference that he believes his
visit opens a new chapter in regional security.
"The summit was a success for the fact that
North Korea for the first time disclosed information and
accepted and apologized for the abductions," he said.
The deal on both the missile and
nuclear-inspection issues "signals the beginning of a
thawing of relations between the two countries", said
Koizumi, who is likely to win diplomatic points for
influencing North Korea, which has been emerging from
isolation in the past two years.
Korea's demand for compensation for Japan's
colonization, Tokyo on Tuesday agreed to provide it with
grants, low-interest loans and humanitarian aid through
international organizations on condition that the two
countries normalize diplomatic ties. Japan and North
Korea have no diplomatic ties, their relations stalled
by their bitter historical past. Further talks are
scheduled next month.
The joint statement also
said that in normalizing ties, the parties would abandon
each other's claims on national and individual assets
prior to the end of World War II.
analysts contend that Koizumi has to proceed cautiously
in the diplomatic advances he made Tuesday, given the
sensitive, emotional issue of the abductions in Japan.
A group of Diet (parliament) members supporting
the relatives released a statement condemning the
abductions as "state terrorism" and demanded that the
Japanese government take severe punitive steps against
Pyongyang, including the suspension of food aid to North
"Normalizing ties [with North Korea] is
out of the question," said one of the lawmakers.
The United States and South Korea - which,
together with Japan compose a trilateral diplomatic
effort toward Pyongyang - welcomed the visit.
South Korean media quoted President Kim Dae-jung
as saying that the summit was a success, as economic aid
to Pyongyang would ease Seoul's burden of coping with
refugees from the North.
The United States,
which has put North Korea, along with Iraq and Iran, in
the "axis of evil", welcomed Kim Jong-il's pledge to
freeze the nation's missile program.
Professor Teruo Komaki of Kokugakuin University says the
effect of the summit on Japan-Korea ties will be tested
by opposition at home. Warned Komaki: "There is going to
be anger against Koizumi and the Foreign Ministry, which
has already been accused of using the abduction issue
for political advancement."