Japan-North Korea Relations

December 28, 2018

Efforts by the International Community

In order to resolve the abductions issue, it is essential for Japan not only to proactively urge North Korea, but also to gain support and cooperation from other countries regarding the importance of resolving the abductions issue. Therefore, the GoJ has raised the issue at every diplomatic opportunity. It is known that there are also many ROK people who were abducted by North Korea. Testimony from returned Japanese abductees and others has further revealed that there are people from Thailand, Romania, and Lebanon who may have been abducted by North Korea. It has also been said, according to the testimony from abductees of the ROK who have returned from North Korea and from others, that Chinese and other nationals have also been abducted.

As detailed above, abduction by North Korea constitutes a universal issue among the international community as a violation of fundamental human rights.

1. United Nations

(Photo) Mr. Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, during a speech at the General Debate Session in the UN General Assembly
Mr. Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, during a speech at the General Debate Session in the UN General Assembly (September 2018)

  • (a) In the United Nations, Japan and the European Union (EU) have co-tabled the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK at both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. The resolutions have been adopted at the Human Rights Council 11 times for 11 consecutive years and at the General Assembly 13 times for 13 consecutive years (as of October 2018).
  • (b) During the March 2013 session of the Human Rights Council, the resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK that includes words to establish a Commission of Inquiry (COI) was adopted by consensus (without voting). The COI has investigated the human rights situation in North Korea including the abductions issue through their visits to Japan, the ROK, the US, the United Kingdom and Thailand, and released their final report (COI report) in February 2014.
  • (c) During the March 2014 session of the Human Rights Council, the resolution which reflects the contents of the COI report was adopted by an overwhelming majority. It is stronger in content than any such resolution to date at the Council. The resolution condemned the widespread and gross human rights violations in North Korea in the strongest terms, and urged North Korea to take immediate steps to end all human rights violations, including abductions. Based on the recommendations in the COI report, the resolution recommended the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to consider the referral of the situation to the appropriate international criminal justice mechanism that those responsible for the human rights violations are held to account. It also requested the establishment of a structure in order to follow up on the COI report.
  • (d) In December 2014, at the UN General Assembly, the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in theDPRK was co-sponsored by a record number of countries, and adopted by an overwhelming majority. Itscontent is stronger than any such resolution adopted at the UN General Assembly. This resolution is based on the COI report and the Human Rights Council's Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK adopted in March 2014. More specifically, along with the condemnation of North Korea's systematic, widespread, and gross violation of human rights, this resolution refers to "crimes against humanity" and encourages the UNSC to take appropriate action, including consideration of referral of the situation of human rights in North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
  • (e) Thereafter, specific initiatives were implemented based on the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK, including the establishment of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) field-based structure in Seoul (in June 2015); the designation of independent experts to focus on issues of accountability for human rights violations in North Korea (in September 2016); and the adoption of a resolution to strengthen the capacity of the OHCHR, including its field-based structure in Seoul (in March 2017). The Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK that was adopted at the Human Rights Council in March 2018 also strongly encourages to expedite the process for strengthening OHCHR's capacity.
  • (f) In December 2014, UNSC discussed the situation in North Korea comprehensively, including the humanrights situation. Since then, UNSC held meetings on "the situation in the DPRK" for four consecutive years.Japan has urged the fastest possible resolution of the North Korean abductions issue at these meetings.

2. Six-Party Talks


(Photo) Six-Party TalksSix-Party Talks (September 27, 2007)

Japan has raised the abductions issue at the Six-Party Talks. In fact, taking steps to normalize relations between Japan and North Korea, on the basis of the settlement of the abductions issues and other outstanding issues of concern, was set as one of the goals in the September 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks. Based on this goal, during the Six-Party Talks held in February 2007, the decision for the establishment of a Working Group for the "Normalization of DPRK-Japan Relations" was incorporated in an outcome document.

At the Six-Party Talks held in October 2007, it was reaffirmed in another outcome document that "the DPRK and Japan will make a sincere effort to normalize relations expeditiously in accordance with the Pyongyang Declaration, on the basis of the settlement of 'the unfortunate past' and the outstanding issues of concern," and that "the DPRK and Japan have committed themselves to taking specific actions towards this end through intensive consultations between them." There is no doubt that the abductions issue is included in the "outstanding issues of concern."

3. Multilateral Frameworks


G7 Charlevoix Summit (June 2018)

The GoJ has raised the abductions issue in multilateral frameworks, including the G7 summit and the ASEAN-related summit meetings, and the importance of resolving the abductions issue and efforts the GoJ has been making towards this end have gained the clear understanding and support of other nations.

For example, at the G7 Charlevoix Summit in June 2018, Prime Minister Abe called for understanding and cooperation toward an immediate resolution of the abductions issue, and secured support from the G7 leaders and clear reference of the issue in the Summit's communique. In addition, Prime Minister Abe again called for the understanding and cooperation of every nation in the return of all abductees at the General Debate Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September of the same year.

4. Bilateral Consultations

(Photo) The Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit
The Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit (May 2018)

(Photo) Japan-US- ROK Trilateral Foreign Ministers' Meeting
Japan-US-ROK Trilateral Foreign Ministers' Meeting (July 2018)

(Photo) Japan-US Summit
Japan-US Summit (April 2018)

(Photo) Meeting between President Trump and Family Members of the Abductees
Meeting between President Trump and Family Members of the Abductees (November 2017)

(Photo) Japan-Russia Summit
Japan-Russia Summit (September 2018)

(Photo) Japan-ROK Summit
Japan-ROK Summit (September 2018)

The GoJ has addressed the abductions issue at bilateral summit talks and foreign ministerial meetings with countries such as the United States, the ROK, China and Russia, who offer their understanding and support for the position of Japan. For example, when U.S. President Donald Trump visited Japan in November 2017, he met with the familiy members of the abductees and listened attentively to the family members' emotional pleas, and shared the view with Prime Minister Abe that Japan and the United States will continue to work together towards the resolution of the abductions issue. Furthermore, based on a request from Prime Minister Abe, President Trump raised the abductions issue with Chairman Kim Jong-Un at the U.S.- North Korea summit meeting in June 2018, and the United States has been raising the abductions issue at various opportunities, including visits to

North Korea by the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In addition, the ROK has also been raising the abductions issue with North Korea on successive occasions, including the Inter-Korean Summit in April 2018.

Moreover, during the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting in May 2018, Prime Minister Abe called on President Moon and Chinese Premier of the State Council Li Keqiang, for their support and cooperation towards the early resolution of the abductions issue. As a result of obtaining the understanding of both leaders, reference to the abductions issue was included in the outcome document of the summit meeting for the first time. It should also be noted that at the Japan-Russia summit meeting in September 2018, Prime Minister Abe called for Russia's cooperation on resolving the abductions issue, and obtained the understanding of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Additionally, at the Japan-China summit meeting in the same month, Prime Minister Abe obtained the complete support of Chinese President Xi Jinping for Japan's position regarding the early resolution of the abductions issue.

Draft Resolution Concerning a US Citizen Possibly Abducted by North Korea

In September 2016, a resolution was adopted during the regular session of the US House of Representatives which urged the United States Government to coordinate with the governments of Japan, China, and ROK to investigate the matter of a US citizen possibly abducted by North Korea. In March 2017, an identical resolution was submitted to the US Senate, and was approved in February 2018 by the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The GoJ intends to continue to maintain a close watch on the attitudes of the United States Congress.

Back to Japan-North Korea Relations