November 16, 2007, Prime Minister Fukuda of Japan and President Bush
Wall Street Journal
November 16, 2007
“Bush’s North Korea tilt hurts the U.S.-Japan alliance.”
One unfortunate consequence of the Bush Administration’s about face-face on North Korea is playing out in Tokyo, where the new Prime Minister is struggling to deal with a string of recent insults from Washington. The sharpest slap may come today.
When Yasuo Fukuda visits the White House, President Bush is widely expected to tell him that he plans to take North Korea off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terror, despite Pyongyang’s refusal to provide any new information on the Japanese citizens it kidnapped in the 1970s and ‘80s. Information on the abductees has been Tokyo’s top priority in he six-party nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea.
Until recently, the administration has made progress on the abductees issue a prerequisite for taking North Korea off the terrorist list. Last year Mr. Bush met in the Oval Office with the mother of Megumi Yokota, a 13-year old girl who was kidnapped by North Korean spies in 1977 as she was walking home from school in the western city of Niigata. He called it “one of the most moving meetings since I have been the President.”
Fast forward to this month, when Christopher Hill, the chief U.S. negotiator on North Korea, took a different line in a press conference in Tokyo. When asked about the delisting, he implied that the abductees are a “legal” issue for the U.S. and a bilateral issue between Japan and North Korea. A State Department spokesman, Tom Casey, elaborated this week. “In terms of the abductees issue,” he said, “the two [abductees and the delisting] are not necessarily specifically linked.”
The fate of the abductees is not merely an emotional issue in Japan, though it certainly is that, akin to U.S. sensibilities about Vietnamese MIA and POWs prior to normalization of relations with Hanoi. “Megumi-chan,” or “little Megumi” is household name in Japan, and popular opinion supports Tokyo’s tough stance on dealing with Pyongyang on the issue. Mr. Fukuda’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, rose to the premiership on the issue.
U.S. support for Japan’s position also goes to the heart of American credibility as a security partner. Some Japanese are already beginning to wonder why the U.S. is so eager for a deal that won’t truly de-nuclearize the North, which has hundreds of missiles capable of reaching any corner of their country.
North Korea has failed to declare the components of its nuclear program-seven month after the agreed-upon deadline for doing so. And there are growing doubts that the U.S. will insist on an accounting that includes the North’s nuclear weapons, its stockpile of plutonium, and a uranium program That Pyongyang once touted but now says doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, the Yongbyon nuclear reactor that is now being “disabled” too much fanfare may already be at or near the end of its useful life. No wonder Tokyo is nervous.
J. Thomas Schieffer, the U.S. ambassador in Tokyo, is widely reported to have sent Mr. Bush a private cable last month, warning that the pending nuclear deal with North Korea could damage relations with Japan. There are indications that may already be happening.
On November 1, Japan suspended its naval mission to supply fuel to U.S.-led coalition forces in the Indian Ocean. Mr. Fukuda’s government pushed through a watered down bill in the Diet’s lower house this week restarting the mission. The Prime Minister decided against using his authority to push through stronger registration in part, we are told, on the counsel of advisers who urged him to distance himself from the Americans. That kind of thinking could lead to a decision by a future Japanese government to go nuclear, rather than run the risk of relying on the unreliable Americans.
As President Bush makes decisions about whether to abandon its best Asian ally on the abduction issue, he ought to consider the consequences of shaking the Japanese people’s faith in their alliance with the U.S.
We, the Nippon Falcons disagree and do not support Christopher Hill's stance regarding eliminating North Korea's status as a terrorist nation in exchange for dismantling their nuclear facilities. We strongly disapprove of this tactic that the US proposes. This action will abandon Japan's demand for returning their citizens who have been abducted by the North Korean government. We want those missing people to return to their homeland.
Mr. Hill claims that taking the terrorist nation status from North Korea is within the US laws, and it does not directly link to the abduction issue. Then, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda should say that we see this American action as termination of the US Japan Security Treaty.
Our Prime Minister also should tell President Bush that the Comfort Women Resolution has seriously offended the Japanese people. Your congress should be advised that the Resolution is harmful to your country's security.
I recommend our P.M. to speak with a loud voice so that Mr. Cheney, Madam Rice and Mr. Gates can hear our nation's message loud and clear.
Regardless of the result of the talks between P.M. Fukuda and President Bush, the Nippon Falcons will never change their position. If the US continues to push Christopher Hill's plan and continues to support the Comfort Women Resolution, we will push our nation to change our constitution, reduce the US military presence in Japan and begin to arm ourselves with nuclear warheads.
Iseheijiro the spokesman for Nippon Falcons League