Japanese Prime Minister Says Summit with North Korea will be “Fruitful”

A Proposed Relationship 

Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida has expressed further interest in developing better relations with North Korea, describing it as “fruitful” despite North Korean officials rejecting recent advances to hold a summit between the nations’ leaders and reportedly all contact.

“We will continue to address issues related to North Korea,” Kishida said at a press conference yesterday, March 28th.

Attempts to engage with North Korea were mainly motivated by the Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s and North Korea’s nuclear program. Kishida has made efforts to hold negotiations with Pyongyang since last year.

Japanese PM Fumio Kishida holding a press conference in Tokyo. Source: Kyodo

Officially, the nations have no diplomatic ties, not including any form of trading. North Korea claims the issue to be “resolved,” but Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi counters this, claiming it is “totally unacceptable.”

Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, critiqued Japan’s further inquiries into the abductions in Japan, saying “clinging to the unattainable issues which can never be settled” in a statement broadcasted by state-run news outlet the Korean Central News Agency. Kishida wanted to hold a summit with Kim “as soon as possible.”

Referring to Kishida’s low approval rating, Kim Yo-jong stated the summit requests are “politically motivated” and that relations should not be used for “political calculation.” 

History of Relations 

Korea became a colony of Japan after the 1905 Russo-Japanese War, and it held power over the nation until September 9th, 1945, after they gained independence after the Yalta Conference at the end of World War II. 

After World War II, relations began to sour, especially after the aforementioned kidnappings in the 1970s and 1980s, where North Korean agents abducted Japanese citizens, who are still reportedly in North Korea.

Relations are at an all-time low as Japan considers North Korea a threat due to more than one missile test and the projectile landing in Japanese waters. 

Japan recognized the Republic of Korea, or South Korea, as a legitimate government with the 1965 Treaty of Basic Relations. Japan has not recognized North Korea as a sovereign state. 

Analysis

Given the refusal of the North Koreans to engage in any negotiations with Japan, it is unlikely that any ties will be established at all. North Korea’s nuclear program, hostilities with other Western nations, and the difference in government type are further indications of this.

North Korea also may have little to gain from improving relations. 

Japanese public opinion of North Korea is also low, with over 90% of the population considering North Korea a “threat,” while only 1% has “positive views” of North Korea.

Kishida has pushed for negotiations as his approval rating has lowered likely due to the slush funds scandal, which could seem obtrusive to the North Koreans. Pyongyang could want him out of office, as any successful negotiations could lead to higher approval ratings and keep him in office, would could potentially be against North Korea’s aspirations. 

Kishida’s attempts to improve relations with South Korea could also be a reason North Korea has not wanted to engage in dialogue, as this, along with joint military drills between the U.S., Japan, and South Korea posed a potential threat to North Koreans.

North Korea has also made it a point to state that they will not negotiate with Japan if the issue of the abductions are a part of it, as Japan presses for answers on this matter, deeming the North Korean answer unsatisfactory.

Future relations could prove to be something positive, as it would likely lead to de-escalation between the two nations and maybe more trade.

Evan Berridge
Evan Berridge
Aspiring writer and analyst of mostly Indo-Pacific affairs, began in January 2024.

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