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Cablegate: Initial Reaction to Dprk Deal Mostly Positive

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FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
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RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA IMMEDIATE 2664
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TOKYO 001641

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV JA
SUBJECT: INITIAL REACTION TO DPRK DEAL MOSTLY POSITIVE

1. (SBU) Summary. Reaction to the announcement that Japan
will partially lift its unilateral sanctions on North Korea,
in return for a reinvestigation into the abductions issue and
cooperation on repatriating four 1970's-era Japanese
hijackers, dominated the news over the weekend. Media
attention focused on the potential ramifications for
delisting. Initial reporting suggests that a wide range of
government officials and lawmakers consider the agreement
reached at the June 11-12 working-level talks in Beijing a
positive step, pending further DPRK action. Abductee
families, predictably, have taken the opposite view, a view
echoed by the general public in early polling. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Most media outlets framed DPRK interest in making a
deal as an attempt to sway the United States to move more
quickly on delisting North Korea as a state sponsor of
terrorism. The Japanese press gave wide coverage to official
U.S. reaction welcoming any "sincere actions" by the DPRK on
the abductions issue. Many focused on the significance of
the talks for improved Japan-DPRK relations, speculating that
any improvement in bilateral relations could speed delisting.
An unnamed "senior MOFA official" was quoted in the Asahi as
saying Japan needs to look at the big picture, including
progress on denuclearization, a stance that the Asahi
interpreted to mean possible acceptance of U.S. delisting.
At the same time, most reports have also cautioned against
being overly optimistic that the DPRK will honor these new
commitments. Media reports have been quick to point out that
Japan considers progress in the bilateral talks
"insufficient" to trigger participation in energy aid to the
DPRK at this point.

3. (SBU) Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, briefing
the press June 13 on the results of the June 11-12
working-level bilateral talks in Beijing, said the agreement
represents "a certain degree of progress." He cautioned,
however, that Japan has only agreed to lift the restrictions
pending agreement on procedures for reinvestigating the fate
of the abductees. If North Korea complies, he said, Japan
will once again allow personal travel between the two
countries, including on North Korean chartered flights, and
open Japanese ports to North Korean ships for the loading of
humanitarian relief aid. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, more
guarded in his comments, said only that "we are at the
starting line of the negotiation process." Special Advisor
to the Prime Minister on Abductions Kyoko Nakayama urged the
government to seek "concrete progress" on the investigation
into abductions before lifting sanctions, and to re-impose
sanctions if progress is unsatisfactory. Unnamed MOFA
officials were quoted as saying that they would coordinate
with other relevant agencies over the next few days to look
at the procedures for partially lifting the sanctions.

4. (SBU) Japanese lawmakers were split over whether the
outcome of the talks represents real progress. Independent
Lower House member Takeo Hiranuma, leader of a conservative
supra-partisan group calling for early repatriation of the
abductees, was cautiously optimistic in statements to the
press. Opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Secretary
General Yukio Hatoyama, on the other hand, criticized the
government for "too easily lifting sanctions," absent any
real progress on abductions. An anonymous ruling Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP) "hard-liner" was quoted as saying that
two years of sanctions had produced no progress on
abductions. Former LDP Vice President Taku Yamasaki, leader
of a rival supra-partisan group urging greater engagement
with North Korea, welcomed the resumption of dialogue. LDP
Secretary General Bunmei Ibuki, in several televised
appearances over the weekend, urged that Japan be involved in
the reinvestigation into abductions.

5. (SBU) The Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped
by North Korean, briefed separately by the government on June
13, reacted quickly to the decision to partially lift
sanctions. In a press conference the same evening, leaders

TOKYO 00001641 002 OF 002


conveyed the disappointment of the families of the abductees
at the way the government had "lowered the bar" in defining
the most recent DPRK overtures as "progress on abductions."
The public appears generally opposed to lifting sanctions as
well, according to an initial public opinion poll. A
Mainichi survey conducted June 14-15 registered opposition by
55 percent of respondents, as opposed to only 34 percent in
favor.
SCHIEFFER

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