Mansudae Korea

Is Tokyo being overlooked in the ongoing negotiations?

For years, some things have become commonplace in editorials published by the Korean Central News Agency. Articles lambasting the policies of their southern neighbour and its allies. Specific targets for such attacks were primarily Seoul, Washington and Tokyo, however, something has changed along with the developing detente in Korea; these articles are becoming few and far between with the notable exception of Japan.

Top news story on ‘Naenara’ on the 18th of October

Rodong Sinmun, a national newspaper in the DPRK, was often filled with commentaries denouncing the government policies towards Pyongyang and the hostile attitudes of these enemy states’ towards their country. As peace began to flourish in 2018, as a sign of the developing situation, these articles fell by the wayside and negative ‘attack articles’ were mainly focused on the actions of ‘Conservatives’ in the Republic of Korea, many of whom oppose Moon Jae-in’s DPRK policy; these attacks, instead of undermining South Korea, actually show support for the government, something not seen to this extent in Korea in living memory. Articles on US aggression have certainly not disappeared, there is a solid layer of mistrust separating the DPRK and United States and so reports calling out US negotiating tactics as ‘bullying’ or ‘gangster-like’ are still present, however the rhetoric seen in 2017, has yet to be matched this year. Japan on the other hand remains the only major regional player to continue to be directly assaulted in the media of the DPRK.

Articles calling on Japan to apologise for war crimes committed in the previous century, along with directly attacking the Abe administration for it’s lack of support for the developing peace situation in Korea are still common suggesting that Japan may have already missed it’s opportunity to get fully involved in peace talks in the region, despite making it clear that they consider their involvement to be paramount to regional peace.

KCNA news tab showing articles attacking Japan and SK conservative groups

Japan saw the most significant impact of the 2017 North Korea crisis, 2 missiles were launched from the DPRK over Japan into the Pacific resulting in evacuation alerts and air raid sirens. Some of the most terrifying footage of the crisis came from Japan, where many people believed that war had finally begun in E. Asia, a terrifying glimpse into what could have become our future. However at the turn of the new year, Seoul and Washington supported the inter-korean team at the, so-called ‘peace olympics’ and from there, began laying the ground work for peace talks and nuclear negotiations. However, with a clear set of goals now laid out by the US, and a separate set by Seoul, injecting Tokyo’s demand for Pyongyang to ‘return all abductees’ may be too difficult for this stage in negotiations. This lack of influence over the peace talks is a major issue for Japan, as the US has already shown it is willing to give up certain peace-keeping measures, such as the joint military exercises, as concessions to the North. The US provides regional security for Japan as well as South Korea, and so without a voice in these talks, Japan risks losing out.

Benjamin Weston

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