Friday, November 2, 2007

The quiet shift

Ever so quietly, the Fukuda government appears to be altering its position in the six-party talks. Last week, Foreign Minister Komura suggested that the return of some (but not all) of the remaining abductees would constitute progress on the abductions issue. That wasn't much of a concession, but it was the first attempt by the Japanese government to define what counts for "progress."

Now Asahi reports that Sasae Kenichiro, Japan's negotiator in the talks, said in a meeting with Chris Hill, the US negotiator in Tokyo on Friday, "The US is presently at the center of the work [of disabling North Korea's nuclear facilities], but we are also in the process of considering participation."

Once again, not a huge step, but considering that Japan has opted out of the process for most of this year, it's an important step.

Perhaps by the time Prime Minister Fukuda visits Washington later this month Japan will be ready to announce a serious and sustained commitment to the process of denuclearizing North Korea and creating a stable modus vivendi on the Korean peninsula that begins the tricky process of opening North Korea to the world.

1 comment:

Shingen said...

I agree entirely. It's a very important acknowledgement of the need for dialogue, which is what Abe closed off.

One cannot negotiate without clear goals and bargaining chips, and in taking a step towards enunciating their position and showing a will to actually aid North Korea's denuclearisation (although how far Japan goes with that is a big question), Japan might finally be making itself useful in the SPT.

About time too.