chapter  5
18 Pages

Japan’s policy toward North Korea: interests and options

The Korean situation is “a complex combination of issues, including how to reunify

a divided people, how to help a country deal with an economic crisis, how to

promote non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, how to enhance regional

security, how to foster cooperation among countries in the region, and how to

settle problems resulting from Japan’s past deeds in the region.”1 This was the

way that, in 2000, Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono described the complex

set of issues and stakes involved on the Korean Peninsula. Among the myriad

issues involved, “kako no seisan,” or the “settlement of the problems of the past,”

is the only issue over which Japan can deal bilaterally with North Korea. Even

this is one of the major stumbling blocks in the normalization talks between Japan

and North Korea. All other issues, requiring both bilateral and multilateral

approaches, are beyond Japan’s control. Even settlement of the bilateral issue –

overcoming the legacy of Japanese colonial control of the Korean Peninsula from

1910 to 1945 and normalizing relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang – requires

progress in other issues in which, clearly, Japan is but one of the many parties.