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  Asia-Pacific
News Analysis
N. Korea Pulls Out of 6-Party Talks because of Japan
By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent
Unused nuclear fuel rods in the warehouse at North Korea's main nuclear plant in Yongbyon as of January 2009

The Japanese government used the nationalist card during the recent dispute over a missile test or satellite which was launched by North Korea on April 5. Other more moderate regional nations, notably the Russian Federation and China, stated that nations must remain calm otherwise the consequences may become dire. However, the Prime Minister of Japan, Taro Aso, who is deeply unpopular, used the nationalist card and he and his government desired to make political capital out of the situation.

Yet now, it appears that North Korea will no longer play ball and the region is once more braced for fresh tensions. So should Japan be expelled from regional dialogue because of their usual non-helpful stance?

Before concentrating on this issue it is important to think about the crisis from the perspective of North Korea. It does not mean that you have to agree with the North Korean government however unless you try to put yourself in “their shoes,” then you will solve nothing.

From the North Korean perspective it is clear that they believe that the military is needed in order to neutralize the threat from outside forces. It is worth bearing in mind that American forces are based in both Japan and South Korea, and in other nations throughout Asia. Also, unlike North Korea in recent history, it is the nation of America which invades other nations and even today you have ongoing conflicts.

Of course, some people will claim that America had to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq, and that bombing Serbia was justified. Yet the consequences of these invasions have been tragic. This applies to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people who have been killed “in the name of democracy.”

It is also true that each conflict must be judged separately but the same symptom is to be found, and this applies to America using massive force in order to implement certain foreign policy objectives. Yet for the Serbian Christian and Gypsy minority in Kosovo and for the innocent civilians in Iraq, it is hard to understand why they have become victims in their own lands.

If we think about past invasions, from Vietnam to Iraq, or ongoing covert operations in Colombia, then the hand of America is behind all of these. It also does not matter if the government is Democratic or Republican, the same applies. Yes, depending on your thinking, you can either justify or be against these conflicts. However, this is not the issue. The point is that for North Korea they see mass hypocrisy and an enemy which is more than willing to invade.

Then we have the problem of Japan because what does the Japanese government want? Does the Japanese government want to cause mayhem in North Korea or do political leaders want to pander to nationalists? I would have thought that the Japanese people want a non-nuclear North Korea but it would appear that the government of Japan merely wants to obstruct progress.

This is not an anti-Japanese statement, for it is merely aimed at the government of Japan. They firstly raised the abduction issue time and time again and then “made a song and dance” about the missile test or satellite test according to North Korea. Yet which is the biggest threat to Japan? Is it the abduction issue or missile test or the nuclear weapon issue? Of course, for the vast majority of Japanese nationals it is the nuclear issue which is more important.

Once more, I would like to point out that Japan is a “democracy” which is usually under the patronage of the same political party. But recently, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) goes from one crisis to another. Therefore, the North Korean issue is an easy target in order to manipulate many Japanese nationals.

Today, we may be witnessing the “final nail in the coffin” of the six-party talks because of Japan’s intransigence. So how did Japan help the other nations who desired a non-nuclear North Korea? In truth, they did not help but instead they have hindered all recent progress and now other nations are back to square one.

Given this, then it is clear that Japan must be omitted from future talks about this important issue. For it would appear that Japanese nationals will be better protected by wiser leaders in both China and the Russian Federation, who seek a genuine deal based on “give and take.” Even American leaders have become more open recently towards solving this important crisis, but sadly Japan appears to have dragged down America.

So what now? Well, it would seem that the six-party talks are dead and buried but in politics, you never can say anything one hundred percent. Yet today the Foreign Ministry of North Korea stated that North Korea will “never again” participate in future talks and that they will “actively review” building a light-water reactor.

On top of this, the Foreign Ministry of North Korea stated that they have “no choice but to further strengthen our nuclear deterrent to cope with additional military threats by hostile forces.” So now we once more have a major problem in Northeast Asia and this time it can not be blamed on either America or North Korea, instead the finger must firmly be pointed at Japan.

The only hope is that other nations will rally round together in order to influence North Korea. However, North Korea will only listen providing either Japan is taken out of the equation or Japan relents from its usual anti-North Korean stance. Yet given the internal political problems of the ruling LDP in Japan then maybe the current government is already in a nationalist corner which it can not get out of.

Therefore, it is now essential that both China and the Russian Federation put diplomat pressure on North Korea via a genuine understanding of the fears that this nation holds. You may not agree with North Korea or you may despise the regime but this will not help. Therefore, realism is needed and America must also soften its stance in order to create a new framework whereby a long-lasting solution can be found.



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Lee Jay Walker serves as Tokyo Correspondent of The Seoul Times. He specializes in int'l relations and geopolitics. He is also involved in analyst work and research on business. After finishing BA degree in East European Studies at the University of London, He earned MA degree in Asia Pacific Studies in Nottingham Trent University. He also studied business at London Institute.

 

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