Following the first meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un, a friend of mine wrote an article articulating that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should meet Kim Jong Un, take a picture, and complete the series of photo collection between Kim Jong Un and world leaders.
Initially, I argued against this idea and argument. I said in previous article that it would only add to Kim Jong Un’s credibility before the North Koreans, as he manages to talk in an equal position with world leaders — something that he longs.
Here is what he said to me when we met about a month ago, in which occasion I raised my point and with an open mind ask for his reply.
Not in his exact wording, but he said that his argument is based on the fact that East Asia is a very delicate region; and that Japan and North Korea still have unfinished business, specifically regarding the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea.
There are at least four powers with high level of distrust in the region: China, Japan, South Korea, and North Korea. While North Korea-China relation has been very good for decades, North Korea-South Korea relation has only warmed recently; and that does not come without a price. There are so many problems between the two Koreas that have to be set aside in the meantime to make the progress on denuclearisation — and possible unification — going.
North Korea and Japan relation is not less delicate. North Korea has abducted Japanese citizens to the country; allegedly to teach Japanese language to North Koreans.
Not to mention that the level of distrust among East Asian countries can be traced back to Japan’s brutal occupation before and during World War II period — which involved young girls taken as comfort women for Japanese soldiers during that period. But that is another conversation.
In a matter of days, specifically on February 27–28, 2019, Donald Trump is once again scheduled to meet Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, following the first meeting between the two, which is also known as the Singapore Summit.
Turns out, what my friend said, partially becomes a reality. The discussion on the abduction (done by North Korea to Japanese citizens) arises, one more time.
Ahead of the summit, Abe vowed to coordinate with Trump on abductions issue. In response, Trump has promised Abe that he will raise abduction issue with Kim.
Earlier this year, Abe gave hints that he wants to meet Kim Jong Un. However, even if that does not happen, talking about this issue via the US can serve as an alternative.
Now, one week before the second summit, there are still some questions on the table: Is Trump right in trying to engage North Korea? Is North Korea sincere in its efforts to denuclearize the peninsula? Should Abe meet Kim? Is reunification ever going to take place?
Come what may, it is still to early to answer these questions. What we know so far is that Trump is no longer threatening Kim Jong Un with “fire and fury” and that the two no longer argue about who has the bigger nuclear button.