#1: More abductee sightings

Shuichi Ichikawa and Rumiko Matsumoto (1978)

Shuichi Ichikawa and Rumiko Matsumoto (1978) (Source: Rachi.go.jp)

Following last week’s news that Yaeko Taguchi had been spotted in Pyongyang last year, the brother of Shuichi Ichikawa reports that Ichikawa was spotted with his wife Rumiko Matsumoto in 2006, contradicting claims that they had died in 1979 and 1981 respectively. Ichikawa’s brother has not revealed his source. In related news, the UN rapporteur on human rights in  North Korea arrived in Japan on Tuesday to meet with Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and the families of the Japanese abductees:

“I stress that the question of abductions is not only a bilateral issue between Japan and the DPRK (North Korea), but one that concerns the international community at large and one that has strong links to the human rights situation in the DPRK [...]

“For an effective resolution of the abduction issue, international criminal liability of those responsible for the abductions cannot be ruled out.”

#2: Maehara outlines Japanese diplomatic strategy

On Monday, Foreign Minister Maehara delivered his Foreign Policy Speech to the 177th Session of the Diet outlining MoFA’s goals for the coming year. A Mainichi Daily News report emphasized that “Japan will pursue strategic diplomacy to maximize the nation’s economic gains and work to solidify its security alliance with the United States in efforts to ensure peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”

#3: Trilateral military drills on the horizon?

USN Admiral Robert Willard, CO of PACCOM, was optimistic about the possibility of Japan joining US-South Korea military exercises, citing their “natural interoperable capability.” All three countries already take part in the annual conflict intervention joint exercise Cobra Gold in Thailand (alongside Thai, Singaporean and Malaysian personnel). South Korea, in its second time as a participant, announced that it will only send 50 marines to take part in the exercise this year, down from the 300 marines sent last year.

Japan and South Korea were among the participant nations in Cobra Gold 2010.

Japan and South Korea were among the participant nations in Cobra Gold 2010. (Source: USARPAC)

The US conducts frequent bilateral exercises with both Japan and South Korea. Yama Sakura 59, “a scenario-based bilateral training exercise focused on improving military-to-military relationships and interoperability“, is currently underway in Japan. This year, the focus seems to be on repelling a Chinese invasion of Japan’s southern islands, even if they are not so named.

#4: Executions in North Korea

Perhaps as a sign of Kim Jong-il’s regime attempting to pacify and stabilize the country before he (reluctantly, we are told) hands the premiership over to his son, Kim Jong-un, North Korean authorities cracked down on South Korean propaganda. There have been reports of unrest in the country: brutal purges and boosted protection for its leaders.

Check out Robert Neff’s post over at the Marmot’s Hole for more information.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch