Abe demands meeting with North Korea’s Kim

This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 26, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) inspecting housing blocks at a construction site at Ryomyong Street in Pyongyang. / AFP / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT —EDITORS NOTE— RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY CREDIT “AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS” – NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has announced that he wants to take part in a meeting between Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, which is due to take place this summer.

Mr Abe told the Diet in Tokyo that Japanese diplomats have been communicating with the North Koreans via an intermediary in China. His comments came just as Kim Jong-Un was visiting Beijing, according to Bloomberg News. It was his first foreign trip since taking power in 2011.

Mr Abe hopes to raise the issue of abducted Japanese citizens with Mr Kim, either directly, or through Mr Trump. Mr Abe will make his case to the US president when he flies to Washington for talks next month. He has also asked the South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, to raise the abduction issue with Mr Kim during the inter-Korean summit, which is scheduled to take place in late April.

However, it seems improbable that the North Koreans will allow Mr Abe to attend their meeting with Mr Trump. Nor are they likely to take any steps to release the Japanese people who were abducted in the 1970s and 1980s.

Japan’s dilemma

One of the dilemmas facing Japan is how to accommodate the North Koreans. Hawkish politicians say talks and diplomacy are ineffective and they claim the best response is to press for regime change through force. These conservatives find an ally in Donald Trump’s ultra-hawkish new national security advisor, John Bolton, who has advocated the use of a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.

Unclear agenda

This week, I discussed North Korea with the former British ambassador to Pyongyang, John Everard. He said there is no clear agenda for the Kim-Trump meeting and noted that there is currently no serving US Ambassador to South Korea.

“We keep talking about the summit between the US and the North Korea as a done deal. But is it?” he asked.

Mr Everard suggested that the meeting could be cancelled if Mr Trump comes under pressure from from his hawkish advisors or if there is a poor outcome to the inter-Korean summit, which is due to take place before the Trump-Kim meeting.

Mr Everard said: “The North Koreans believe they are on a roll. They think they have a winning hand and now is the time to play it. Of course, everyone likes the idea of dialogue – but we need to be clear-sighted because North Korea is a very serious threat.”

Mr Everard believes that if Mr Trump or Mr Kim senses they are losing face they might walk out and the summit may fail. “If either party storms out that would put us in a far worse position – a broken summit would be a disaster,” he warned.

Many thanks to the Commonwealth Journalists Association for the invitation to the meeting about the Korean situation at the House of Lords.
[:]

Royal scandal shows the tabloids real power[:]

Freedom of speech in the media sometimes carries a heavy price Japan. It gives great power to the tabloid press, as the Imperial Family have found out to their cost this week.

Japan’s Princess Mako has announced she will be postpone her planned marriage to her fiance Kei Komuro for two years. This follows a report in the tabloids about Mr Komuro’s family background. A magazine has claimed there has been a dispute about money between Mr Komuro’s mother and a former partner.

The officials who represent the Imperial Family claim that the change of date for their marriage is unrelated to the tabloid report but few people believe this.

Princess Mako and Mr Komuro announced their engagement last September and originally planned to wed in November this year. This has intrigued the media because Princess Mako is marrying a commoner, rather than a fellow royal.

Another person targeted by the tabloids recently is the TV news presenter Junichi Tosaka, who worked at NHK for 20 years. He planned to switch to the rival channel Fuji TV soon but has stepped down from that role because of allegations in a tabloid about his alleged sexual behaviour.

The most famous weekly tabloid magazine Shukan Bunshun has accused Mr Tosaka of sitting next to another newscaster at a restaurant, before “touching her knees as if he was rubbing her” and whispering to her to “sneak out of the restaurant together.”

This has some strong echoes of the allegations of sexual impropriety by men which have been highlighted in many countries by the “Me Too” social media campaign. Many powerful men have been named as predators.

Tabloids like the Shukan Bunshun can print almost any allegetation without much proof and although most respectable people say they do not believe all things they read in gossipy magazines, they do hold considerable influence.

Their reports spread like wildfire online and are often picked up by the mainstream newspapers and broadcasters. Sometimes the international media picks them up too, as was the case with the story about Princess Mako’s fiance.

In a country where most people are very respectful towards privacy and hierarchy, the reporters from the weekly magazine often break the rules to get the stories. The greater a person’s fame, the more the tabloid magazines will dig for anything which connects them to scandal. I met some reporters from Shukan Bunshun in Tokyo and I asked them if they pay money for information and they told me that they do not.

However, the greater attention their stories receive, the more kudos the reporters earn. And the people they write about have few weapons to fight back. Even if they are not true, allegations in the press can ruin a person’s reputation, career and relationships.

[:]