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Koizumi’s North Korea Policy Chief Says Balancing Role “Impossible”

Koizumi’s North Korea Policy Chief Says Balancing Role “Impossible”

Posted November. 07, 2005 07:23,   


Hitoshi Tanaka, the former director-general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau under Japan`s Ministry of Foreign Affairs came to Korea to attend a symposium titled: “Toward the Asian Community of the 21 Century – The Challenges Ahead of Korea and Japan” held by Hallym University’s Japanology research institute at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security. He said in an interview on November 5 that since North Korea is not reliable, everything that it agrees to should be verified. However, he also said that peace in Northeast Asia cannot be expected without a soft landing.

Tanaka, who was a Japanese representative in the six-party talks and left the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in August, is Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s main diplomacy architect for North Korea. He is also the man behind the summit meeting between Japan’s Prime Minister Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in September, 2002.

-Were the outcomes of North Korea-Japan summit meeting valid? How likely are negotiations to proceed during Koizumi’s tenure?

“The roadmap based on the North Korea-Japan Pyongyang Declaration still remains. However, there will be no progress without resolving the nuclear issues. That is why the six-party talks are important. The breakthrough in the talks is a synonym for the normalization of North Korea-Japan diplomatic relations.

-Some pointed out that because the issue of abductees was raised, the outcome of Koizumi’s visit to North Korea was spoiled.

“We don’t think that his visit to North Korea was a failure. The goal was to resolve the abduction issues first, and to normalize the relations between two countries in the end. That still remains. Neither Japan nor North Korea said that consultations between the two countries would be abandoned. We should see this process in a long-term perspective.”

-Some in Korea worry about Japanese society turning rightist.

“Some say Korea is swinging to the left. Compared to when is Korea turning left? Sixty years since the end of World War II is a long enough period for public sentiment to change. It is unreasonable to categorize that. The agony Koizumi faces is that if he stops visiting Yasukuni Shrine, it will not lead to better relations with other Asian countries, even though he knows Asia`s feelings about his worshipping there.

-You criticized Korea’s statement that it wanted to play a balancing role in the Northeast Asia in a recent seminar, saying, “I’m very disappointed.”

“Japan would not bring up such an idea of playing a balancing role between China and the U.S. because Japan is a democratic country. It is impossible to play a balancing role between countries with different values.

Young-A Soh sya@donga.com