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2008年11月26日 (水)

日米韓首脳会談 核、拉致で連携強化が必要だ

(Mainichi Japan) November 25, 2008

Japan, U.S., South Korea need closer cooperation on nuclear, abduction issues

社説:日米韓首脳会談 核、拉致で連携強化が必要だ

In conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum convened in Peru, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, U.S. President George W. Bush, and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak held a trilateral summit where they agreed to work together to convene the six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue in early December.


The recent nuclear accord that the U.S. reached with North Korea has, unfortunately, too much wiggle room. On the one hand, North Korea says that it will not allow collection of samples that could be used to ascertain the quantity of plutonium that it has extracted as part of its nuclear program, while the U.S. asserts that North Korea had in fact consented to provide such samples. Their differences have emerged in part perhaps because their agreement was a verbal one.


The stipulation in the U.S.-North Korean accord that mutual consent is required in order to enter undisclosed facilities also contributes to the ambiguity. That the North Korean government has recently declared expediently that the verification protocol will be confined to the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, and that verification will only commence after the other five parties have fully extended their economic assistance may also be an outgrowth of the lack of clarity in the accord.


The bilateral talks between the U.S. and North Korea are setting the course of the effort to disable North Korea's nuclear facilities and adopt verification mechanisms, and for the most part the other four concerned parties have endorsed the points of agreement that the U.S. and North Korea have worked out. If the six-party talks will resume in the near future, all of the parties must ratify a strict verification mechanism that will not be a mere formality and close loopholes.


We would like to commend the leaders of Japan, the U.S., and South Korea for agreeing on the need to put into writing the protocol for verifying North Korea's denuclearization efforts. The Bush administration's term will expire soon, so North Korea is probably trying to feel out the stance that will be adopted by the incoming Obama administration. That is why it is even more important that Japan, the U.S., and South Korea work in unison.


Separate from the trilateral summit, Prime Minister Aso and President Bush held a bilateral summit, during which President Bush gave his assurance that he was fully aware that (the abduction issue) is a "delicate problem," and that the new Obama administration will handle the issue properly.


At working-level talks on the abduction issue held between Japan and North Korea in August, North Korea had agreed to set up a panel to carry out a comprehensive survey to find surviving abductees and to return them to Japan, and to do its best to compile the results of its survey by autumn. However, as autumn draws to a close, there has been no communication from North Korea on this matter.


While the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism had been a card that Japan could have used to as leverage on the abduction issue, the U.S. took the card off the table by delisting North Korea, so there is no doubt that some hard feelings remain between Japan and the U.S. Aside from the North Korean issue, however, there are other pending bilateral issues between Japan and the U.S., including cooperation in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, whose importance has been emphasized by president-elect Barack Obama, and the relocation of the Futenma Air Station which is related to a planned redeployment of U.S. forces in Japan.


The first meeting between Prime Minister Aso and President Bush will probably be their last. President Bush has less than two months remaining in his term, and the Aso administration is standing on shaky political ground. That is why the hard feelings that arose under the Bush administration should not be bequeathed to the Japan-U.S. relationship that will be managed by the new administration. As President Bush himself has stated, the points of agreement that he arrived at with the leaders of Japan and South Korea should be endorsed by Obama.


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