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2014年3月20日 (木)

横田夫妻と孫娘 対面にめぐみさん不在の重み

The Yomiuri Shimbun March 18, 2014
Megumi’s absence casts shadow over parents’ meeting with granddaughter
横田夫妻と孫娘 対面にめぐみさん不在の重み(3月18日付・読売社説)

“Something like a dream come true.” “She [our granddaughter] looks like Megumi when she was young.”

The words of Shigeru Yokota and his wife Sakie show that being able to meet their granddaughter was a pleasure greater than they had dreamed of.

The Yokotas met Kim Eun Gyong, the daughter of their daughter Megumi—one of the many Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea—for the first time in Ulan Bator from March 10 to 14. The pair said they also met their 10-month-old great-granddaughter.

The Yokotas had expressed a desire to meet their granddaughter since her existence became known in 2002. But they had refrained from doing so for fear that if they visited North Korea to meet her, Pyongyang would use the visit as an excuse to say the abduction issue had been put to rest.

With Shigeru at 81 and Sakie at 78, the government considered the advanced ages of the Yokotas an important humanitarian concern and did all it could do to make the meeting possible through negotiations with North Korea.

Senior Foreign Ministry officials reportedly began a series of secret meetings with their North Korean counterparts in Hanoi and Hong Kong in late January to make arrangements to allow the meeting to happen in a third country. The realization of this meeting could be the first step in resolving the abduction issue, on which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe places great priority.

The fact remains, however, that Megumi was not present when the Yokotas met their granddaughter, and no information about her safety has been ascertained. Her absence must be taken seriously.

North Korea insists that Megumi died, and provided Japan with what it claimed to be her remains, but the remains provided were later shown not to be hers. After that discovery, Pyongyang pledged to restart investigations of the abductions of Japanese nationals, but has postponed delivering on that promise. The country has shown an extremely disingenuous attitude.

What’s behind concession?

The intentions of North Korea in accepting the meeting between the Yokotas and Eun Gyong in a third-party country should be examined carefully.

The North Korean administration of Kim Jong Un purged Choe Thae Bok, who had served as a link with China, in December, and in doing so threw cold water onto bilateral relations between the two, further exacerbating the country’s economic plight. Pyongyang is expected to use the abduction issue as a bargaining chip to call for Tokyo to ease its economic sanctions, hoping to ward off the people’s discontent.

Behind North Korea’s conciliatory move is a quickly tightening international noose around North Korea over the abduction issue.

A U.N. investigation panel on human rights abuses has compiled a report accusing North Korea of infringing on human rights under its state leaders. Pyongyang evidently wants to calm international criticism of the country by improving relations with Tokyo.

Japan must tackle the abduction issue seriously. At the same time, it needs to seek a comprehensive solution to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs, which threaten the international community. Japan must firmly maintain its stance of holding dialogue with and applying pressure on North Korea.

Japan and North Korea will hold an unofficial meeting of foreign ministerial division directors in Shenyang, China, on Wednesday and Thursday. It is essential for Japan to seek to build on the unofficial meeting to schedule official meetings and sound out North Korea’s response.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 18, 2014)
(2014年3月18日01時59分  読売新聞)


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