Night Watch

Japan-North Korea: Update. Japanese government advisor Iijima had meetings with senior North Korean officials, including Kim Yong Nam. Kim is Chairman of the presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and acts as the head of state for protocol purposes.

Iijima discussed the unresolved issue of abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean intelligence agents in the 1970's and 1980's and current nuclear and missile matters. Concerning the abductions, he conveyed Japan's demands that all abductees return home, that full information be released about the abductions, and that all perpetrators be transferred to Japan.

Japanese government sources said North Korean officials stated they would convey this to Kim Jong Un and then respond. Prime Minister Abe said the abduction issue is one of his top priorities. He is prepared to hold a summit meeting with North Korea leaders to settle it.

Comment: The abductions were part of intelligence operations characteristic of an earlier era when North Korea had no nuclear weapons and few ballistic missiles. All the primary personnel involved are retired, if not deceased. In other words, there appear to be conditions for reaching a deal that would benefit North Korea and Japanese Prime Minister Abe.

The nature and substance of the communications between Pyongyang and Tokyo that led to the Iijima visit are not available in the public domain. What is clear is that in receiving Iijima North Korean leaders have created an opportunity to break their isolation and get assistance from Japan. However, they must find a way to compromise and negotiate on the abduction issue.

North Korea: Between 18 and 20 May, North Korea fired six rockets or short range missiles into the Sea of Japan. South Korea, China, Russia, the UN, the US and Japan all urged restraint. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) unusually admitted the North was engaged in rocket training and asserted its sovereign right to do so without interference.

Comment: South Korean official sources initially reported the 18 May launches as short range missiles. Later, the sources said the objects were projectiles, by which they meant unguided rockets, possibly from a new multiple round rocket launcher system (MRL) with a very large caliber and long range.


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