Go to contents

[Opinion] Japan’s New Leader

Posted September. 29, 2006 07:05,   


Japan’s new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe (52) often uses the expression “sikari,” which means “absolutely.” He used this word forty times when having an interview on his inauguration, September 26. It reveals his both gentleness and toughness. And the task Abe announced to complete in his tenure for certain is the matter regarding abductees by North Korea.

Abe argued that Japan cannot sign a joint declaration without Kim Jong Il’s apology for the issue of Japanese abductees when he accompanied his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi as deputy cabinet secretary on a trip to Pyongyang for the first North Korea-Japan summit meeting in September 2002. After that, he became popular when five surviving abductees visited Japan for a while because he insisted they not return to the North. North Korea’s missile test in July also made a big help to him becoming prime minister. It is even said that Abe’s government is actually made by North Korea.

After taking office, Abe established a “headquarters for abductees,” took a position of a president himself and arranged his aides mainly on this matter. His political partner and cabinet secretary, Yasuhisa Shiozaki, will be a vice president of this organization while carrying on his job of the minister of abductees’ matters. An aide, Kyoko Nakayama, who is very hawkish toward North Korea, will take a position of a secretary-general. And the secretary of State for Political Affairs, confidential Yoshiyuki Inoue is the figure who worked for abductees’ matter when he was deputy cabinet secretary. He visited Pyongyang to deal with this matter ahead of the second North Korea-Japan summit meeting in 2004.

There is a prediction that Abe’s strict policies toward North Korea might bring him a short political life. It is because Kim Jong Il sticks to his own opinion, saying, “The abductees’ matter was solved,” so there is nothing to get from him anymore, only to worsen the situations. And there is another growing prediction that the Liberal Democratic Party will lose in the election of the House of Councilors next summer. There even was a news report that said, “The CIA submitted a report to President George W. Bush expecting the short life of the Abe administration.” It is our government that matters. I am worried whether we can get along with the Abe administration since we have very different views toward North Korea, which is the main factor that causes conflicts between Japan and South Korea. It remains to be seen whether the difference in the two countries’ views will be narrowed even if S. Korea-Japan summit is held.

Lee Dong-kwan, Editorial Writer, dklee@donga.com