United States President Donald Trump pressed North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un to settle the long-festering issue of Japanese abductees at their second summit meeting last February, it was learned on May 16.
President Trump complained to Kim during their summit meeting in Hanoi that North Korea had demonstrated “no significant progress” in the abductions issue. Kim repeatedly tried to evade the issue, offering one excuse after another.
A senior Trump administration official later briefed Japanese officials on what went on at the Hanoi summit.
The U.S. side reported that in that session the U.S. made clear it placed the abduction question on an equal level of importance with its demands for Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
Kim reportedly acknowledged that the “abductions” continue to be an issue in North Korea-Japan relations, and said that he was prepared to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Speculation is that the uncompromising U.S. stance was what led Kim to change his attitude in this regard.
A senior Trump administration official told the Japanese side that when Trump brought up the abduction issue on February 27 — the first day of the summit — Kim repeatedly attempted to deflect the discussion.
When the presidential party was reviewing what had taken place following the first day’s meeting, Trump complained that from start to finish Kim had stonewalled on the abduction issue, saying, “With this, I don’t have anything to tell Prime Minister Abe [to whom I promised to give a substantive answer].”
The U.S. game plan for the second day of the summit therefore was to continue to strongly demand a response concerning the abductions question.
On the second day of the summit, February 28, the U.S. presented Kim with a proposal for a “big deal.” The offer consisted of economic prosperity for North Korea in exchange for:
Pyongyang’s total abandonment of its arsenal of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons as well as its ballistic missiles
Resolution of its serious human rights issues
This time, Trump wouldn’t yield on placing the Japanese abductions as a core issue in the human rights category. Because of this, Kim was “driven into a substantive discussion” concerning the abductions issue, according to the U.S. official.
An attendee at the meeting said that it was his impression from observing Kim that the North Korean leader realized that he “could no longer evade the abduction question.”
Earlier in May, Abe announced that he is prepared to meet Kim face-to-face without any preconditions. Against this background, the Prime Minister apparently has concluded that engaging with Kim directly at a summit meeting offers the best opportunity for some kind of dialogue concerning the abduction issue.
UN Human Rights Group Comments on Abductions
Another recent development concerning North Korea and the abduction issue occurred on May 14 in Geneva. The Human Rights Council Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances adopted recommendations for concrete action, including a call for the immediate repatriation of Japanese and other foreign victims.
Although the working group recommendations reflect the collective opinion of the 88 countries and territories that participated in the deliberations, the North Korean government has adamantly clung to its previous stance that the abductions issue has already been settled.
This hardline stance continues to be demonstrated in international forums, including in the speech made to the Human Rights Council Working Group by the ambassador to the permanent mission of North Korea to international organizations in Geneva, in which North Korea rejected the Human Rights Council’s recommendations.
(Click here to read the original May 16 article in Japanese.)
(Click here to learn more about the subject of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese and other foreign citizens.)
Author: Staff Writers, The Sankei Shimbun