Monday, May 17, 2004


So says the ever cryptic and source-less Japan Today.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Monday gained U.S. President George Bush's support for his planned visit to North Korea on Saturday, while pledging to urge its leader Kim Jong Il to be actively involved in the six-nation talks on the North's nuclear ambitions, Japanese officials said.
Two years ago, the Kim-Koizumi summit seemed poised to peel Japan away from its close support for Washington's policies toward North Korea. But the abduction issue took on a life of its own in the Japanese media and all hopes for rapprochement (and the big $20 billion pay out to P'yongyang to atone for past sins) faded. Will the DPRK get any closer to progress this time around? Well, today's KCNA doesn't include its usual dose of Japan-bashing (only a mild piece on Japanese trade unions and legislation attempting to ban certain North Korean ships from calling on Japanese ports).

UPDATE: Some see the Koizumi trip (or at least its timing) as stemming more from domestic concerns than from foreign policy ones:
The May 22 Pyongyang visit was announced, coincidentally, on the same day, Friday, that Koizumi confessed he had missed seven years of payments into Japan's state pension fund, joining a list of lawmakers involved in a widening scandal which has led to resignations by a key minister and the head of the main opposition party, according to Japanese media.

Media reports suggested Koizumi had rushed to fix the Pyongyang visit in a bid to take the upper hand in domestic politics despite opposition from many in the ruling party and a more cautious plan laid out by the foreign ministry in Tokyo.

"An ambition to use the progress in talks with North Korea as leverage to take control of politics after the Upper House election is a reason behind why Koizumi rushed to decide the Japan-North Korea summit," the Mainichi Shimbun said.

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