Shinzo Abe is no fool and God knows he went out of his way to stroke Trump and ingratiate himself to him, even going along with being called “Shinzo,” and rhapsodizing about chocolate cake. And Trump led him on, saying he knew that the issue of release of the abductees taken from Japan by North Korea over 30 years ago was “one of the truly important things on Shinzo’s mind,” and that “I will do my best to do the best for Japan.” Abe stated it was his goal in talking to Trump “to match the recognition of certain points.” He really did try to communicate with Trump on both human rights and denuclearization. Too bad, but he expected way too much and Trump stiffed him, just like he does everybody. Washington Post:
After his last meeting with Trump in April, Abe said the two leaders were in complete agreement on North Korea policy, namely to keep sanctions in place until Pyongyang takes concrete action toward verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.
Concerns have since grown in Japan that Trump may be prioritizing holding a summit rather than the goal of full denuclearization. Abe, who has played tough on the North, also worries that a growing reconciliatory mood between the two Koreas may prompt leniency toward Pyongyang.
Trump’s recent statement that he doesn’t want to keep using the phrase “maximum pressure” against North Korea reinforced those fears.
The denuclearization issue was of course, paramount, but of equal and key concern was the topic of the Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 70’s and 80’s, as part of a training program for North Korean spies. Really, For his part, Abe did diligently work on getting the remaining 12 abductees released, which is something he promised in his own campaign. Whitehouse, June 7, 2018
The PRIME MINISTER ABE: (As interpreted.) [in reply to a question from a reporter about the abductees] Today, we had long hours of discussion with President Trump. Good amount of discussion. On the issue of abduction, I was able to have a detailed discussion, and I think President Trump fully understands the situation. He supports the position of Japan.
Last year, President Trump visited Japan. On that occasion, he met with the families of abductees. I told you about the 13-year-old girl abducted. The mother of this girl met with President Trump, and very seriously he intently listened to the voices and views of the family members. So President Trump, amongst the world leaders, I think he is one of the leaders who understands the issue the most — greatest.
So at the upcoming summit, the importance of abduction would be explained to Mr. Kim Jong Un.
It’s nothing short of tragic that on an issue this crucial a cretin like Trump should be involved in any capacity, but yes, he was being counted on by the abductees’ president to negotiate their release.
“We think this is really the final opportunity for us,” said Takuya Yokota, whose sister Megumi Yokota was snatched off a street in Niigata in 1977, when she was 13. She has been imprisoned and incommunicado ever since. “But at the same [time], this is also the last opportunity for North Korea as well.”
On Thursday, the Japanese abductee family members will visit the United Nations and sit on a panel with the parents of Otto Warmbier, the U.S. college student who died shortly after being released from 18 months in a North Korean prison.
Their message is that the leverage the United States and its allies have over North Korea is stronger now than it has ever been or is likely to be. Trump has the opportunity to show that he is bargaining not just for the United States, but also on behalf of allies and universal values including freedom and human rights.
So what happened in the “tremendous” 24 hours with the “very talented” Kim? Zero. Nada. Rien de tout. According to Trump, the issue of human rights was brought up, but who even knows if he’s telling the truth? “It was discussed. Relatively briefly.” And there’s nothing in the written statement prepared after the summit on the topic of the abductions. The four points that were established were two sentences about a desire for peace, great but scarcely “concrete action verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.” The third point was reaffirmation of the Panmunjom Declaration, and lastly a commitment to recover POW/MIA remains. If Trump had done what he promised Abe, he might have been able to swing it with Kim, but we’ll never know.
Abe thanked Trump for raising the issue, granting for the sake of argument that he did, and Trump waffled when questioned by reporters, saying it wasn’t part of the written agreement but it was still agreed on anyway, or something.
Abe is to be commended for going the full distance and then some in order to secure the release of the abductees. Ironically, Trump wanted this to be his Nobel Prize moment and if he had only said and done what he promised Abe he would, he might have actually gotten it.