Japan Defers Draft Resolution Condemning DPRK Human Rights Situation at UNHRC
On Wednesday, Mar. 13, 2019, the Japanese government stated that it will not submit a draft resolution condemning the dismal human rights record and continuing human rights abuses of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, commonly North Korea) at the 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The withdrawal of a possible formal condemnation — which has otherwise been submitted jointly by the Japanese and European Union delegations to the UNHRC annually since 2008 — comes in the wake of the second face-to-face meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and was done in hopes of laying the groundwork for resuming talks between leaders in Tokyo and Pyongyang over the past abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents.
In his regular daily news conference on Mar. 13, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated, “Having reviewed the outcome of the U.S.–North Korea summit meeting as well as various conditions surrounding the abduction and other issues, we have decided not to submit a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the DPRK at the current Human Rights Council being held in Geneva.”
Additionally, Suga, while noting that Tokyo had “reached this conclusion after assessing the outcome of the U.S.-North Korea summit and the situation around the abduction issue,” went on to assert that his government was acting “consistent[ly] in our stance emphasizing human rights diplomacy… We will work toward improving the human rights situation in North Korea.”
Japan will, however, vote for condemning North Korea should the European Union decide to unilaterally submit such a draft resolution during the ongoing ordinary session of the UNHRC, which opened on Feb. 25 and is expected to close on Mar 22.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly expressed his interest in meeting directly with Kim Jong-un to discuss the abduction issue, especially in the context of the two summits between Trump and Kim.
Prime Minister Abe told reporters on Feb. 28 that President Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong-un in Hanoi included talks about resolving outstanding Japanese claims regarding North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals; this was corroborated by the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, which criticized Abe for requesting that Trump bring up the issue during the summit.
Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor at Tokyo’s International Christian University, contends that Japan, by deferring its annual submission to the UNHRC, has a made a decision that “is a tactical shift to recalibrate and possibly gain some needed momentum on the issue of kidnapped Japanese in North Korea.” He also drew comparisons with the policies of former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, namely Abe’s move “forgoing international criticism and mov[ing] to a tête-a-tête with top leaders to make some needed progress.”
Tokyo currently recognizes 17 Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean agents for the purpose of training its spies in language, culture, and customs. Pyongyang denied the claim for years up until 2002, when a summit between then-Prime Minister Koizumi and then-Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il produced the admission by Kim that his government’s agents had abducted 13 Japanese nationals.
However, relatives and advocacy groups for the abducted Japanese nationals contend that the number of cases is far higher, with the disappearance of at least 470 Japanese citizens being related to North Korea.