Japan’s Abe seeks meet with North Korea’s Kim despite missile launch

A Tokyo resident looks at a roadside television screen reporting on North Korea’s projectile launch on August 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 04 October 2019

Japan’s Abe seeks meet with North Korea’s Kim despite missile launch

  • North Korea said this week it had successfully test-fired a new submarine-launched ballistic missile from the sea
  • During periods of tension, Pyongyang has threatened to rain destruction down on Japan

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Friday he was determined to meet North Korea’s leader to resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents, maintaining an offer to talk despite the country’s missile launches.
North Korea said this week it had successfully test-fired a new submarine-launched ballistic missile from the sea, to contain external threats and bolster self-defense, ahead of fresh nuclear talks with the United States.
“I am determined to meet with Chairman Kim Jong Un face-to-face, with no preconditions, to resolve the all-important abduction issue,” Abe said in a policy speech at the beginning of a parliamentary session.
In 2002, North Korea admitted its agents had kidnapped 13 Japanese decades before. Japan says 17 of its citizens were abducted, five of whom were repatriated. North Korea has said eight are dead and another four never entered the country.
Abe has vowed to pursue the issue until all the abductees come home, despite regional tension over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.
Staunch US ally Japan and North Korea have been rivals for decades. During periods of tension, North Korea has threatened to rain destruction down on Japan, and North Korea has test-fired missiles into the seas near Japan and even over it.
“The abductees issue is core to Abe’s political identity and one of the reasons he’s got to the position he has,” said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University’s Japan campus.
But Abe has little leverage over Pyongyang at a time when US President Donald Trump is pursuing further talks with the North Korean leader. The two sides are set to hold fresh nuclear talks on Oct. 5.
“The only role Japan will play is to bankroll whatever deal is struck,” said Brad Glosserman, deputy director of the Center for Rule-making Strategies at Tama University in Tokyo.
“In the interim, North Korea has no reason to speak to Japan and will use it as a scapegoat to pull out whenever they want.”
Japan condemned North Korea’s latest missile test on Wednesday, with Abe saying it was a violation of United Nations sanctions.
The launch was the North’s most provocative since it resumed dialogue with the United States in 2018 and a reminder from Pyongyang of the weapons capability it has been aggressively developing.
“As for the North Korean situation, we will do our utmost to secure the safety of the people, while working closely with the United States and cooperating with the international community,” Abe said in his speech.
Turning to ties with South Korea, soured by a feud over wartime labor that has spilled over into trade and security matters, Abe reiterated a call for Seoul to observe a promise to Tokyo.
Last October, South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered some Japanese firms to compensate Koreans forced to work in their mines and factories during World War Two.
Japan, which says the matter was settled by a 1965 treaty, calls the court decision a violation of international law.
“South Korea is an important neighbor. I would like to ask them to observe a promise made between nations, based on international law.”


‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

Updated 09 July 2020

‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

  • Pakistan played positive role in US-Taliban peace talks, says diplomat

PESHAWAR: Afghanistan’s newly appointed special envoy for Pakistan has had put “mending political relations” between the two estranged nations as one of his top priorities.

Mohammed Umer Daudzai, on Tuesday said that his primary focus would be to ensure lasting peace in Afghanistan and maintain strong ties with Pakistan, especially after Islamabad’s key role in the Afghan peace process earlier this year.

In an exclusive interview, the diplomat told Arab News: “Two areas have been identified to focus on with renewed vigor, such as lasting peace in Afghanistan and cementing Pak-Afghan bilateral ties in economic, social, political and other areas.”

In order to achieve these aims, he said, efforts would be intensified “to mend political relations” between the neighboring countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,600-kilometer porous border and have been at odds for years. Bonds between them have been particularly strained due to a deep mistrust and allegations of cross-border infiltration by militants.

Kabul has blamed Islamabad for harboring Taliban leaders after they were ousted from power in 2001. But Pakistan has denied the allegations and, instead, accused Kabul of providing refuge to anti-Pakistan militants – a claim rejected by Afghanistan.

Daudzai said his immediate priority would be to focus on “political reconciliation” between the two countries, especially in the backdrop of a historic peace agreement signed in February this year when Pakistan played a crucial role in facilitating a troop withdrawal deal between the US and the Taliban to end the decades-old Afghan conflict. “Afghanistan needs political reconciliation which the Afghan government has already been working on to achieve bottom-up harmony,” he added.

Daudzai’s appointment Monday by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took place days after Islamabad chose Mohammed Sadiq as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative for Afghanistan.

Reiterating the need to maintain strong bilateral ties with all of its neighbors, Daudzai said Pakistan’s role was of paramount importance to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has a positive role in the US-Taliban peace talks, and now Islamabad could play a highly significant role in the imminent intra-Afghan talks. I will explore all options for a level-playing field for the success of all these initiatives,” he said, referring in part to crucial peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban which were delayed due to a stalemate in a prisoner exchange program – a key condition of the Feb. 29 peace deal.

Under the agreement, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and around 1,000 government prisoners were to be freed by March 10. So far, Afghanistan has released 3,000 prisoners, while the Taliban have freed 500. Daudzai said that while dates had yet to be finalized, the intra-Afghan dialogue could begin “within weeks.”

He added: “A date for intra-Afghan talks hasn’t been identified yet because there is a stalemate on prisoners’ release. But I am sure they (the talks) will be kicked off within weeks.”

Experts say Daudzai’s appointment could give “fresh momentum” to the stalled process and revitalize ties between the two estranged neighbors.

“Mohammed Sadiq’s appointment...could lead Kabul-Islamabad to a close liaison and better coordination,” Irfanullah Khan, an MPhil scholar and expert on Afghan affairs, told Arab News.

Daudzai said that he would be visiting Islamabad to kickstart the process as soon as the coronavirus disease-related travel restrictions were eased.

Prior to being appointed as the special envoy, he had served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan from April 2011 to August 2013.

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