The ICAS Lectures

No. 2003-0214-TMY

Japan's Role for Peace and Security in Northeast Asia:
North Korea's Nukes, Missiles, and WMD

Tadamichi Yamamoto

ICAS Winter Symposium;
Humanity, Peace and Security
February 14, 2003 12:00 PM - 5:50 PM.
U.S. Senate Dirksen Office Building Room 106
Capitol Hill
Washington, D. C.

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Tel : (610) 277-9989; (610) 277-0149
Fax: (610) 277-3289

Biographic Sketch & Links: Tadamichi Yamamoto

Japan's Role for Peace and Security in Northeast Asia:
North Korea's Nukes, Missiles, and WMD

Tadamichi Yamamoto

In conducting our policy towards North Korea, Japan has two major considerations or purposes. One is to normalize relations with North Korea by addressing the issues arising out of thirty-six years of colonial rule by Japan of the Korean Peninsula before the Second World War. The other is to contribute to the stability of the Korean Peninsula and the peace and security of Northeast Asia.

Japan never lost track of both of these considerations. We always held a wider vision than that of simply managing our bilateral relations with North Korea. In this regard, we have always realized that the issue involving the Korean Peninsula is first and foremost a matter for the two Koreas. We respect and understand the strong interest of the Republic of Korea and have always paid heed to the positions of South Korea. When moving our policy in a major way, we made it a point to consult with South Korea so that our basic policies are always understood.

Similar consideration is given to the position of the United States. We are fully cognizant of the security implications of the issues relating to North Korea. Japan's security is ensured through the security arrangement with the United States. Our alliance is the cornerstone of Japan's foreign policy. It is only natural and in our interest that we make sure that whatever we do with North Korea does not undermine the security arrangement with the United States, and that Japan and the U.S. always act as allies.

These considerations result in close policy coordination between and among the United States, South Korea, and Japan; the best example being the TCOG (Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group).

Bearing these basic considerations in mind, let me touch briefly upon bilateral issues between Japan and North Korea before addressing the security issues.

I refrain from delving into the history issue between Japan and North Korea, but let me point out here that North Korea is the only "country" with which we have not normalized relations after the Second World War. Therefore, for Japan, normalization of relations with North Korea is an unfinished task in history. It is not, unfortunately, an easy task. Several issues have to be resolved before we can normalize our relations.

One is the issue of history or settlement of our past: as neighbouring countries, we would not see a genuine improvement in our relations unless we face up squarely to the problems of the past. This issue had been looked at differently from Pyongyang and from Tokyo. North Korea demanded an official apology and reparations. Japan insisted that the settlement must be made in the same manner as that for South Korea - i.e. Japan's provision of economic cooperation and the mutual waiver of rights of property and claim.

Another is the issue of abduction. I will touch upon this issue later.

The other is that of security issues, including the development of nuclear weapons, missiles and chemical and biological weapons. Any one of the issues alone would pose formidable tasks. In our normalizations talks, we have to address all these issues.

The Japan - North Korea normalization talks first started in January 1991 and for the following two years a series of eight rounds of talks were held. The main topic at that time was on how to settle the issues of the past. The talks, however, fell into abeyance when Japan brought up the abduction issue on the table.

The second series of talks resumed in April 2000. In the intervening years, various attempts were made, such as a provision of food aid, to initiate a breakthrough, but all were in vein. This second series of talks, which were held three times, could not open prospects for a solution on the abduction case, and fell through again.

The visit by Prime Minister Koizumi to Pyongyang was made against such a historic backdrop. Prime Minister Koizumi visited Pyongyang on September 17th, 2002, with the straightforward goal of establishing a platform for resolving outstanding issues and breaking the deadlocks in bilateral negotiations. In accordance with the Prime Minister's strict instructions, the itinerary dispensed with all but the bare minimum of courtesies and focused on the summit meeting itself. The meeting resulted in the signing of the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration.

A breakthrough was made on the settlement of the issues of the past in accordance with the formula suggested by Japan. It was also made clear that economic cooperation from Japan would be extended to North Korea only after the normalization - i.e. after both the security issues and the abduction issue are resolved in a satisfactory manner.

When we look at the Pyongyang Declaration and see the basic elements that have to be addressed for normalization and compare them to those between South Korea and Japan - the normalization of which took place in 1965 - the most striking difference is the existence of the security issues in the case for North Korea.

North Korea is a next-door neighbour to Japan. What they do could have a direct bearing upon Japan's security. The nuclear crisis of 1993-94 was therefore a very serious security concern for us. The Agreed Framework was negotiated between the U.S. and North Korea; but Japan maintained close contact with the U.S. throughout the negotiation process. Japan was effectively a party in the process of defining the negotiating positions of the U.S.

The Agreed Framework, from the time of its conclusion, was recognized to lack the comprehensive coverage of the nuclear issues of North Korea. Ostensibly, the agreement failed to address the issue of amount ofplutonium produced prior to the conclusion of the agreement. The amount ofplutonium is said to be sufficient to produce one or two nuclear weapons. The Agreed Framework did not specifically refer to the issue of enrichment of uranium either.

Despite those "gaps" in coverage, the Agreed Framework played an important role in halting the nuclear weapons development programme utilizing plutonium.

The revelation by North Korea in October 2002 to Assistant Secretary Kelly that it was undertaking the HEU programme unfortunately brought to reality the concern that people had about the Agreed Framework from the onset.

The North Korean's HEU programme violated the spirit of the Agreed Framework. Legally speaking, it is a clear violation of the NPT and the IEA Safeguard Agreement to which North Korea is a party; and the programme also infringed upon the South-North joint Declaration on Denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. But the implication of this action on the part of North Korea went beyond legal violation. It cast a strong doubt on the sincerity and credibility of North Korea, and made credible negotiation with North Korea suspect.

Recent actions by North Korea regarding its nuclear programme are a matter of serious concern, and only make the situation more difficult. Removing the seals on the nuclear facilities and rendering monitoring cameras of IAEA ineffective; asking the IAEA inspectors to leave the country (and they did); and declaration to withdraw from NPT all seem to add up to indicate that North Korea wishes to create a crisis situation.

As I have already mentioned, Japan takes the issue of nuclear weapons development programme by North Korea very seriously. Our position is clear in that without a satisfactory resolution of the nuclear issue, normalization of relations cannot take place.

In this connection, I should like to mention to you an anecdote. When I gave a similar presentation to the one I am giving today, and explained that normalization of relations would not take place unless the nuclear issue is resolved, one person in the audience said "Good luck!" and stood up and left. He certainly understood the difficulty of the issue but the resolution of this problem does not depend upon the "good luck" of Japan, but on the cooperative efforts of Japan, the U.S., South Korea and other key members of the international community (I will touch upon this point later).

The existence of the HEU programme of North Korea came to light prior to the visit of Prime Minister Koizumi to Pyongyang. The preparation for the visit had already been in progress since the autumn of the previous year.

In Pyongyang, Prime Minister Koizumi took the latest development into account in his talks with Kirn Jong-Il. He demanded Kim Jong-Il that North Korea adheres strictly to all relevant international agreements including the NPT, IAEA Safeguard Agreement, and the South-North Joint Declaration of the Korean Peninsula. The Prime Minister also conveyed the strong concern of the U.S. on this issue. Kim Jong-Il responded by saying that North Korea will comply with international agreements. This exchange is reflected in the Pyongyang Declaration issued by the two leaders after the talk.

Another source of security concern is the North Korean missiles. North Korea possesses short-range missiles, SCUDs; short- to mid-range missiles, Nodongs; and mid- to long-range missiles, Teapodongs. Nodong, with the range of up to 1300km, could reach almost the entire region of Japan. They pose a direct threat to Japan, and are of particular concern to us. It was tested in 1993 and reached the Japan Sea. The Teapodong, which are said to possess the ability to fly up to 6000km, could possibly reach the US.

It is also well known that North Korea exports SCUD missiles, and that this is an important source of foreign currency earnings; some say approximately 20. The possibility of these missiles reaching the hands of terrorists cannot be excluded.

Whenever negotiations on security matters took place, Japan always placed the missile issue high on the agenda. The occasion of the Prime Minister's visit to Pyongyang was no exception. The Prime Minister stated that the development, testing, deployment and export of missiles affect the peace and stability of Japan and the region, and expressed specific concern about the deployment of both Taepodong and Nodong. The Prime Minister called on North Korea to continue with the moratorium on the launch beyond 2003.

Kim Jong-Il stated that North Korea will consult with Japan and US on all aspects of missiles, and agreed to extend the moratorium on the launch of missiles beyond 2003.

Recent moves on the part of North Korea are, however, troubling. After the announcement by KEDO on the suspension of the shipment of heavy fuel oil. North Korea indicated, on November 17th, a possibility to stop the moratorium on the launch of missiles.

Future actions of North Korea are not predictable. We cannot rule out the possibility of the launch of missiles by North Korea partly as its efforts to attract the necessary attention of the international community to start negotiations to attain whatever objective they are pursuing.

In such an event, the international community must send a clear and uncompromising message to North Korea that such a launch threatens the international security and that it must refrain from such activities.

I would like now to explain briefly about the abduction issue before talking further about the nuclear issue.

The abduction issue is a unique issue to Japan. It is by nature a humanitarian issue as well as a security issue.

Around the mid- to late 1970s and early 1980s, there were instances of young Japanese being abducted by North Korean agents. The incidents took mainly but not limited to the areas facing the Japan Sea, where it was separated from the Korean Peninsula only by a stretch of water. As of now, ten cases of fifteen people have officially been recognized by the Japanese Police Agency as abduction cases. There are still a larger number of missing people from around that time who are suspected as being abducted.

These incidents are clear violations of the sovereignty of Japan because the officials of a foreign government illegally abduct he Japanese citizens from within the Japanese territory, thus endangering their safety.

When Japan took up this issue in the normalization talks. North Korea refused to admit the existence of this issue. For instance, the first series of normalization talks which lasted for nearly two years saw its abrupt end in the eighth round of talks when Japanese side mentioned the name of a suspected abductee, who was reported to have been the teacher of the Japanese language to the woman who was responsible for the bombing of the KAL flight in 1987. When the name of this woman, Li-u-ne was mentioned by the Japanese side, the North Korean delegation stood up and left the table, and never came back.

Abduction by North Korean officials not only infringed upon the sovereignty of Japan, but because it also caused misery and suffering of the victims and their families, the Japanese public felt very strong indignation against North Korea.

The Government of Japan will not normalize relations with North Korea unless this issue is resolved in a satisfactory manner. This issue raised the fundamental question of if Japan can trust the North Korean government.

Though difficult an issue it may be, we have begun to see changes in North Korea's attitude in the negotiations, starting the autumn of 2001, which paved the way for the visit of Prime Minister Koizumi to Pyongyang.

At the time of the Prime Minister's visit to Pyongyang, Kim Jong-Il acknowledged that the Japanese citizens were brought to North Korea by some of North Korea's special agency of government in the 1970's and early 1980's. He explained that "blind heroism led them to such actions." Kim Jong-Il apologized that these incidents were regrettable, and promised to take appropriate measures to prevent recurrence.

However, cold reality was also there. Of the thirteen people whose fate we inquired, eight people had already died of illness or accidents. This news sent a great shock wave among the Japanese people. The five survivors are now back in Japan, but their family members, children and a husband, still remain in North Korea. Furthermore, the circumstances of death of the eight people lack sufficient information.

Having outlined the nature of the security issues of North Korea in a wider context from our standpoint, I should now like to talk about our basic stance in dealing with the issue of current concern, the nuclear issue.

There are two schools of thought regarding the objective behind the recent actions taken by North Korea relating to their nuclear activities. One school of thought sees brinkmanship of North Korea in their efforts to raise tension and aggravate our concerns so that they will be placed in a better position to bargain with us, in particular, with the U.S. The other school of thought sees a decision on the part of North Korea to be recognized as a nuclear state. We do not know for sure what their thinking might be. It may be that they are pursuing both.

What is certain, however, is that North Korea's actions violate the NPT from which they have already declared their intention to withdraw, also violate the IAEA Safeguard Agreement, and infringes upon the South-North Joint Declaration on Denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

In order to cope with this situation, Japan has three sets of policies:

First is the close cooperation with other countries concerned with this issue. Particularly close coordination among the U.S., South Korea, and Japan to try to bring about a positive response from North Korea. We will utilize TCOG, as well as frequent contacts at all levels including Prime Minister and Foreign Minister levels, down to officials level like myself. We also feel the role of China and Russia to be very important, they have traditionally had friendly relations with North Korea, and presumably they could communicate to North Korea with some effectiveness. Japan will maintain close consultations and cooperation with both these countries.

Secondly, we will utilize multilateral fora, such as IAEA and the UN Security Council. We believe it important that the international community issue a clear and unanimous message seeking:
  1. adherence to NPT
  2. re-freeze of the activities of nuclear related facilities, and
  3. dismantlement of the nuclear weapons programme.
However, when we contemplate taking concrete actions by those fora, they need to be carefully weighed to determine what really contributes to the peaceful resolution of this issue.

Naturally, Japan is working closely with countries concerned, including the P5, so that our point of view is reflected in those messages and debate. Japan and South Korea are two countries not in the Security Council, but whose safety and security are greatly and directly affected by North Korea. We believe it only appropriate that the two countries be involved in international policy making in North Korea. I believe it fair to say that we did play a significant role in the process of drafting the recent IAEA Resolution, and we intend to remain closely engaged in the coming UN process.

Third, Japan is working upon North Korea bilaterally. We maintain channels of communication with North Korea, and continue to convey the following message:
  1. Escalation of the situation would not be in the interest of North Korea because that would only further push away the prospect of international assistance to North Korea.
  2. No member of the international community, including the U.S., has the intention to invade North Korea. On the contrary, all wish North Korea to act as a responsible member of the international community, and
  3. It is necessary for North Korea to first take positive action for the purpose of precipitating a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue.
So far, unfortunately, we have not yet received any positive response from North Korea, but we intend to continue, tenaciously, to talk to North Korea.

Japan has no illusions about the nature of the problem or the difficulty and complexity involved in trying to bring about a satisfactory solution. But the North Korean situation is not the same as the Iraqi situation. Both certainly involve the issue of non-proliferation ofWMD including nuclear weapons, but the two have different historical backgrounds and the international situation surrounding the two countries are different. We cannot simply equate the two situations.

In coping with the North Korean situation, we must fully take into account the geopolitical context of Northeast Asia. It is clear that close cooperation among the US, South Korea and Japan is critical in coping with this issue. On the basis of such firm cooperation, we need to endeavour for a peaceful resolution of the issue by cooperating with other countries concerned, such as China and Russia.

Iraq is a different situation. It has already committed a material breach of the obligations it has under the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. The international community is calling upon Iraq to actively cooperate with the on going inspection process, in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1441.

Iraq is called upon to faithfully implement the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions including the dismantlement ofWMD.

Japan believes that with determination and cooperation among the members of the international community, we can bring about a peaceful resolution of the North Korean situation.

Thank you.

This page last updated 8/11/2003 jdb

ICAS Fellow
ICAS Speakers
& Discussants
Winter 2003