North Korea in Japan’s Strategic Thinking


Through the repeated cycles of North Korean missile and nuclear testing, negotiations, and sanctions that have characterized international reaction to Pyongyang’s proliferation, Japan has gradually lost ground it its effort to shape events on the Korean Peninsula. Tokyo made some progress in direct negotiations with Kim Jong-il, most notably the visits to Pyongyang by Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro in 2002 and 2004, but with limited success in improving its strategic position. Since the succession of Kim Jong-un, Tokyo has put greater emphasis on ensuring it is prepared militarily for a more unpredictable North Korea, and strengthened its support for UN Security Council sanctions on North Korean proliferation.

On denuclearization, Tokyo has pursued its interests in collaboration with the United States, South Korea, and others in the region. The lack of direct leverage with Pyongyang continues to constrain Japan’s ability to assert influence on negotiations. 1 Whatever economic leverage Japan once had with the North has all but disappeared through the imposition of sanctions. Imports from North Korea were banned after the nuclear test in October 2006, and exports to North Korea were banned in June 2009 following the second nuclear test in May of that year. 2 Restrictions on cash remittances by Koreans in Japan, an important source of revenue for Pyongyang, were also tightened following the missile test in April 2009. 3 The only remaining source of potential leverage is the promise of economic reward should Pyongyang agree to denuclearize, but this too seems less effective in light of domestic Japanese sentiment on North Korean abductions of Japan’s citizens.

Ironically, the most effective moment of strategic engagement with Pyongyang resulted in a domestic backlash that then diminished Tokyo’s ability to shape the denuclearization effort. Koizumi’s effort to negotiate the release of Japanese citizens in 2002 produced a tremendous outcry against the government’s handling of the abductions. The successful negotiation of a moratorium on missile tests achieved by Koizumi, and codified in the Pyongyang Declaration, 4 was all but forgotten as the Japanese public became focused on the fate of those thought to remain in North Korea. Although a second visit by Koizumi in 2004 produced the release of some of the abductees’ families, North Korea’s refusal to acknowledge that any additional abductees remained alive ended any support for compromise in Japan. Japanese antipathy toward North Korea over the abductions limited Japan’s role in a negotiated process of denuclearization, and Koizumi’s successors have made further identification and return of Japanese abductees a precondition to economic assistance should Pyongyang agree to denuclearize. Japan no longer had the interest or the ability to compromise in talks with the North.

As Japan’s influence over North Korea waned, Pyongyang’s influence over Japanese military strategy grew. North Korean provocations instigated a gradual reassignment of Self-Defense Force personnel, and clarification of rules of engagement to cope with the activities of North Korean agents. Along with the 1998 Taepodong missile test, less conspicuous but equally troubling entry into Japanese waters of “suspicious ships” from North Korea prompted Tokyo to articulate Japan’s maritime rules of engagement, and fostered closer ties between Japan’s Coast Guard and Maritime Self Defense Force. The well-known chase and sinking of a North Korean ship led to the first postwar sinking of a vessel by the Japanese Coast Guard in December 2001. Likewise, the Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF) developed its own guerilla warfare unit designed to counter potential infiltration by North Korean forces on the Sea of Japan coastline. 5

But it has been Pyongyang’s missile proliferation that has worried Japanese planners the most. Japan has invested over USD 12 billion developing a ballistic missile capability designed as to respond to the North Korean missile threat, 6 including PAC-III and SM-3 ship borne missile defenses and the deployment with the United States of X-band radar. 7 In addition, Japan instituted changes to its command and control protocols to deal with missile defense. 8 The successful test this year in launching an intermediate range missile over the East China Sea prompted the Ministry of Defense to request funding for yet another layer of ballistic missile protection, the Thermal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). 9

The evolution in Japanese strategic thinking has not been all about Pyongyang. Three changes have encouraged Tokyo to consider new missions and capabilities for its military, calling into question its strategy of limited armament and alliance with the United States. First, North Korean proliferation and the growing military might of China prompted concerns about the reliability of the US extended deterrent. Second, China’s rapid military build-up coupled with its increasing maritime assertiveness was perceived in Tokyo as a bid for regional hegemony, and the territorial dispute in the East China Sea raised the specter of direct armed confrontation between China and Japan. Third, these new North Korean and Chinese capabilities have sorely tested the domestic consensus within Japan on military self-restraint and raised questions about the relevance of Japan’s pacifist Constitution. In 2013, this mix of concerns is being reassessed under the leadership of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo after a more belligerent North Korea and a more aggressive China put security in the forefront of Japan’s international agenda.

North Korea in the US-Japan Alliance

North Korea has played a significant role in US-Japan alliance consultations for two decades, at times enhancing policy coordination and at others diminishing Tokyo’s confidence in the alliance. In 1993-1994, Japanese leaders were wary of being drawn into a war of US punitive action after International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors were forced to leave and then even more nervous about the Agreed Framework and subsequent four-party talks that left Japan on the margins. From 1998 to 2000, a soft US response to the Taepodong missile firing followed by support for Kim Dae-jung’s Sunshine Policy left Japan even further on the sidelines. In contrast, during 2002 and into 2003 a gap opened between Japanese and American policymakers as the United States shifted from branding North Korea as part of the “axis of evil” and punishing it after uncovering its uranium enrichment program, while Koizumi took the opposite tack of instituting his independent effort to engage Kim Jong-il and visit Pyongyang.

The most serious gap resulted from the Joint Agreement and the US decision to pursue bilateral talks with North Korea, whose focus and prospects did not satisfy Japanese concerns and whose very nature left Japanese feeling out in the cold. In 2007, Ambassador Thomas Schieffer sent a highly secret cable to George W. Bush to alert him that US efforts to negotiate bilaterally with Pyongyang were undermining Japanese confidence in the alliance. The cable did not remain secret; it was published in the Washington Post, revealing just how fraught North Korea negotiations had become even within Washington. 10 The shift to bilateral talks left allies in the region persuaded that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill did not appreciate the regional consequences. No one in Tokyo was surprised at the contents of the cable. Japanese officials had become increasingly frustrated with being shut out of the bilateral negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang. From Tokyo’s vantage point, the Six-Party Talks had put China at the helm of the multilateral discussions, and Washington’s talk of building a formal security architecture around these talks suggested that it was moving away from its longstanding alliance-based policy for deterring conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Japanese security experts had long warned of the North Korean “Trojan Horse” presented in its push to weaken the US extended deterrent in Asia. 11

Today, the frustration between Washington and Tokyo has diminished as Pyongyang has failed to meet the terms of denuclearization outlined in the Six-Party Talks. Repeated North Korean provocations and its success in testing an intermediate-range ballistic missile have resulted in a unified stance that emphasizes crisis management planning and military readiness. Whereas Washington and Tokyo differed in their emphasis in threat perception—with the United States more focused on nuclear proliferation and Japan’s attention focused on missile deployments (including the hundreds of Nodongs within reach of Japanese territory)—North Korea’s continued missile and nuclear testing in 2009 made that difference less relevant. Moreover, the diplomatic effort to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear proliferation now has a global stage in the UN Security Council.

Change also came to Tokyo’s diplomatic game on North Korea, and for a time, this opened the way for greater cooperation with the United States and South Korea. Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo began the diversification of Japan’s diplomatic approach by articulating a more comprehensive approach for pursuing Japan’s interests on the abductee issue as well as on non-proliferation and regional stability efforts. Tokyo and Seoul found common cause on the abductee issue once Lee Myung-bak replaced Roh Moo-hyun as president. 12 Tokyo also enhanced its security dialogue with Washington on extended deterrence, and pushed forward with alliance crisis management consultations and Ballistic Missile Defenses (BMD). Japan has also joined with the United States in supporting sanctions on Iran, moving out of the regional focus on North Korea and sustaining the UN Security Council effort to enforce nonproliferation norms globally. Finally, Tokyo embraced the opportunity for trilateral dialogue with the PRC and South Korea on issues of shared concern in Northeast Asia. This trilateral summitry opened yet another avenue for Japan to pursue regional discussions on how to respond to Pyongyang’s proliferation. 13

North Korea’s shift from the fall of 2008 away from the Joint Statement and the Joint Agreement, which envisioned multi-stage implementation, brought Washington and Seoul much closer to Tokyo in their strategic thinking about the next steps in meeting this serious challenge. As a consensus on the North Korean threat was strengthening in 2010, Japan also awoke to a military threat from China centered on the East China Sea and to the urgency of strengthening ties with the United States, which had been frayed by the DPJ government’s handling of US base relocation on Okinawa. If leadership shifts in the DPJ and the 3/11 tsunami impact complicated strategic thinking, developments in 2012 combined to bring all the driving forces for rethinking together for the first time.

Tokyo’s Emphasis on Military Preparedness

The death of Kim Jong-il opened a new chapter in regional diplomacy towards North Korea. Coming on the heels of the North Korean provocations in 2010, the succession process led to greater consultations and diplomacy. Despite its change in government, Japan was consistent in its support for Lee Myung-bak’s efforts to respond responsibly to these provocations. Japan offered strong support for his response to the Cheonan sinking, 14and then again, in response to North Korea’s shelling of Yeongpyeong Island. Similarly, the DPJ government responded immediately to condemn North Korea’s use of force, placing Japan firmly in support of Lee. 15

Likewise, Japan responded calmly to the news of Kim Jong-il’s death, and announced it would remain vigilant to any indications of instability, committing to close consultations and policy coordination with Seoul and Washington, and even China. 16 Yet Kim Jong-il’s death also created a sense of futility about the prospect of returning to a more productive dialogue with Pyongyang. In a rare appearance on Japanese television, former Prime Minister Koizumi spoke sadly of the missed opportunity that Kim Jong-il’s passing signaled. The DPJ government continued to work quietly to promote humanitarian dialogue via non-profit groups, but the downturn in the months following Kim Jung-un’s arrival in power yet again hardened attitudes in Japan towards any negotiations.

As North Korea seemed determined to return to a more provocative stance towards its neighbors in 2012, Japan found itself in unprecedented diplomatic isolation from its neighbors. China posed the first direct military threat to Japan in its history when it sent ships to challenge the administration of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Within Japan, the outpouring of revisionism regarding the Pacific War and increased advocacy of shedding Japan’s postwar military constraints, related to the “no war” Constitution, revealed a new intensity in anxiety about security. On top of this, the new level of belligerence accompanied by an increased threat capacity in North Korea became the background for a more intense debate over Japanese strategy to meet these challenges.

The island dispute with China, simmering since an incident between a Chinese fishing trawler and the Japan Coast Guard in 2010, 17 had prompted concern about Beijing’s intentions. The 2012 flare-up between Chinese and Japanese maritime forces in the Senkaku/Diaoyu waters raises the prospect that Tokyo will need to defend the islands militarily should China attempt to challenge Japanese control. To make matters worse, Lee Myung-bak shocked Japanese by visiting the disputed Takeshima/Dokdo Islands in August 2012, and openly criticizing the Japanese Emperor for the nation’s lack of repentance in colonizing Korea. His successor, Park Geun-hye, inherited a deeply estranged relationship, and neither she nor Abe has moved in the direction of repairing the damage. With her early visit to Beijing after going to Washington, Park has instead suggested that Seoul now places a higher premium on its relations with China than on the longstanding partnership with Japan. Furthermore, in her meetings with Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, Park reportedly implored him to use his influence to bring Japan to the negotiating table over the outstanding Korean claims for compensation for imposed sexual slavery during the Pacific War. 18

Recent strains in Tokyo’s regional relations have had two results. First, Japanese leaders have little appetite for regional multilateralism given what they perceive as Beijing’s hostility and Seoul’s betrayal. To compound the problem, Japan no longer sits in the UN Security Council, and thus has no front row seat in global efforts to counter proliferation. Japan remains the odd man out in recent high-level summitry. The Xi-Obama meeting at Sunnylands occasioned considerable grumbling in Tokyo, and the contrast with Abe’s visit to Washington in February did not escape notice. There is little confidence that Beijing’s interests on the peninsula conform to the US and Japanese interests there. Likewise, Park’s decision to bypass Tokyo, as well as her decision to encourage a trilateral meeting of the United States, China, and South Korea to discuss North Korean cooperation, has undercut Japan’s role in the current round of regional consultations. Trilateral talks among Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo on North Korea policy continue, yet there is a sense that Tokyo is marginalized even there.

Second, Tokyo’s perception of an increasingly hostile security environment in Northeast Asia is prompting greater attention to military readiness and enhanced capabilities. 19 The threat emanating from North Korea has already significantly altered Japan’s capabilities, prompting the introduction of BMD and a reassessment of Japan’s rules of engagement. In this coming year it is likely that Japan will reconsider its postwar ban on collective self-defense, and the case most easily cited in support of this will be the right to shoot down North Korean missiles that threaten the United States. Offensive strike capability in the form of cruise missiles will likely be the next enhancement justified, at least nominally, by the North Korean threat. At the US-Japan 2+2 meeting on October 3, a review of the Defense Cooperation Guidelines was initiated to consider how Washington and Tokyo can address this deterioration in Japan’s security regional environment. 20

Rising Regional Tensions and Japan’s Response

Japanese leaders have become discouraged with diplomatic overtures to Pyongyang. Bilateral talks since the Koizumi visits have largely been a venue for negotiations over the abductees, rather than discussions of denuclearization. Quiet efforts to establish contact between private groups, including the Red Cross, on identifying the remains of Japanese who died in World War II have allowed some contact with Pyongyang. In a somewhat surprising turn of events, an envoy of the prime minister visited Pyongyang May 14-18, 2013 ostensibly for secret consultations, but media coverage of his trip may have ruined the prospects for quiet diplomacy. 21 Upon his return to Japan, Iijima briefed Abe but did not speak to the media other than to indicate his purpose was to advocate on behalf of Japan’s abductees. 22 Immediately, South Korea’s foreign ministry criticized Abe’s decision to send an envoy, saying Japan was undermining the multilateral effort to bring pressure to bear on Kim Jong-un for his provocative behavior. 23

Beyond the foreseeable future, it is hard to see what strategic options Japan might exercise in managing its relations with North Korea. Tokyo has not publicly endorsed regime change as a policy goal, but it has seemed more comfortable when Washington’s preferences for regime change dominated diplomacy. When Washington sought a negotiated path for denuclearization, Tokyo seemed more likely to worry about other regional powers and their ambitions. Few Japanese security experts openly debate the process of reunification on the Korean peninsula or speculate on how such a process might affect Japan’s strategic goals. Whether this is because the process of unification is simply too difficult to predict or because Tokyo would have no direct role in shaping the process is unclear.

Nonetheless, Japan plans for a Korean contingency, perhaps one resulting in unification, largely in terms of how that would affect its security. Japan’s approach to planning for the conflict that is likely to accompany change on the peninsula is to coordinate through the alliance with the United States. Whether through joint BMD operations, shared ISR capabilities, or other types of exercises and training, the alliance has developed a clear sense of how it would respond to a contingency on the Korean Peninsula.

Less clear is South Korean willingness to work with Japan in the event of a breakdown in the North or open conflict between North and South. Japan has no direct role on the peninsula; there are efforts, however, to consider how to evacuate Japanese nationals from the South. The events of 2010 clearly brought home the possibility of conflict there, and a realistic effort to build closer military cooperation produced considerable progress in the event of a conflict. Two agreements outlined closer coordination in such an event: the Acquisitions and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA), which allows for logistics coordination; and the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which allowed for protection of classified information on matters relevant to regional security particularly on the Korean Peninsula. Unfortunately, South Korea at the last minute refused to move forward with implementing them. 24

China’s intentions regarding the peninsula also trouble Japanese strategic thinkers. Militarily, China has also established greater influence over the waters in and around the Korean Peninsula as its maritime capabilities grow to meet its strategic ambition of anti-access, area denial in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Seas. Japanese strategist Michishita Narushige points out that Japan and the United States must remain vigilant to the possibility that China will use North Korea as a “geostrategic stronghold” in the future given its military and strategic interests there. 25

Japan’s Options in Northeast Asia

Since Koizumi first advocated it in 2002, Japan has sought opportunities for building what it calls an East Asian Community. 26 Others in the region, particularly in South Korea, have articulated similar visions, and in large part economic rather than security interests drive these visions for closer regional ties. Economic integration with Seoul and Beijing was central to the trilateral summits, begun in Fukuoka in December 2008 that grew out of the ASEAN +3 consultations. The three neighbors continue to work together to develop an FTA, but for the moment politics has interrupted the summitry.

Alternative diplomatic initiatives, such as Seoul’s new effort to develop a Seoul, Beijing, Washington dialogue, have used the North Korea issue to reorganize this Northeast Asian collaboration. Cultivating Xi Jinping’s new leadership and taking advantage of Beijing’s frustration with Kim Jong-un’s provocations, Park Geun-hye’s early overtures to China to create a concerted effort to stabilize the Korean Peninsula have left Tokyo out in the cold. Park’s vision of Northeast Asian regionalism depends on a “correct understanding” of history, a not so subtle admonishment of Japan that implies Tokyo should be excluded from Northeast Asian regionalism. 27 Moreover, the Chinese too have refused regional cooperation with Tokyo because of their displeasure over the island dispute. Washington continues to emphasize the need for trilateral consultations with Japan and South Korea on North Korea, but these meetings have been less rewarding than in the past. Creating alternative venues for Northeast Asian diplomacy that exclude Japan, and sidelining established trilateral consultations that include Tokyo, freezes Japan out of current North Korea policy discussions in the region.

Little recent Japanese writing on a strategy towards a unified Korea attempts to integrate the long-term impact of these emerging regional strains. Michishita and others writing on the future prospects of Korean reunification did so from a time of closer Seoul-Tokyo relations, and before the events of 2010 made conflict on the peninsula seem more likely. Their arguments were less skeptical of a unified Korea under Seoul’s leadership; indeed, they envisioned a South Korea than remained a “virtual ally” of Japan. 28 Michishita sees Japan’s alliance relationship with the United States as the defining element for its future security after reunification. If security cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo is no longer an option, Japan’s reliance on Washington’s security guarantee would only deepen.

Japanese security planners remain focused on the threat posed by Pyongyang rather than on the more fraught prospect of planning for a post-conflict, unified Korea. A conflict scenario is the prevailing presumption regarding the process of unification, but the contours of that outcome remain unclear for Tokyo. Undoubtedly, unification would bring a new set of strategic concerns to the fore. First and foremost, Tokyo would likely be concerned about the orientation of a unified Korea in the overall balance of power in Northeast Asia. If unified under Seoul’s leadership, would it seek accommodation with Beijing or continue its strategic partnership with the United States? A second concern would be the future of Pyongyang’s nuclear program and its management under a unified Korea. Finally, the state of Seoul-Tokyo relations leading up to unification would shape Japanese perceptions about a unified Korea. Current tensions in the bilateral relationship, if unresolved, could become a serious indicator of the tenor of future relations between a unified Korea and Japan. Without adequately resolving contemporary tensions, the prospect of a strategic transformation on the peninsula that would redefine the regional balance of power would render Japan’s future strategic outlook dim indeed.

Japan and Change on the Korean Peninsula

Today, more than ever, the US-Japan alliance remains the primary venue for ensuring Japanese interests in the regional balance of power. In 2005, the United States and Japan outlined “common strategic objectives” for the alliance, and designed a realignment plan for their militaries that would enhance a US-Japan force posture aimed at deterrence. Today, the alliance is taking a step further in its planning for war-fighting. After the successful missile test in December 2012 of an intermediate range ballistic missile that could one day reach US territory, Japanese and US planners recognized the need to further integrate their BMD response, and the Abe cabinet is expected to reinterpret Japan’s Constitution to allow for “collective self-defense,” the ability for Japan’s Self-Defense Force to use force against those who threaten the United States.

The threat of a North Korean missile attack, with or without nuclear warheads, opens up significant questions about the US extended deterrent, as it has raised the possibility that Washington might be less willing to defend Japan if American citizens or territory were threatened. This nuclear-age dilemma for US allies is not new, but it is the first time that Japan has had to confront a real instance of “decoupling” in the alliance. As a result, this has fundamentally altered Japan’s thinking about its alliance responsibilities.

There are signs, however, of new security dynamics afoot that could influence Japanese decision-making. South Korea’s decision to move to an active deterrent through the introduction of intermediate range missiles has introduced a new dynamic in the region. 29 Japan too has considered the acquisition of counter-strike capability to contend with Pyongyang’s growing missile threat, and in the 2006 Diet debate some argued for the option of “base-to-base” (kichitaikichi) response capability, in other words the acquisition of missiles that would offer Tokyo a conventional strike capability. This debate has resurfaced today, and discussions with Washington over the option of shared counter defense measures that would enable a more active deterrent vis-à-vis Pyongyang are expected. The US-Japan alliance discussion today will reflect Seoul’s position as well as growing Japanese concern over US military sustainability in the Asia-Pacific region.

The recent consultations between the United States and others in the region suggest the possibility of a renewed diplomatic effort with North Korea. Japan’s role in any restart of the Six-Party Talks would be reluctant, however, given the Abe Cabinet’s harder line in its approach to North Korea. Since returning to office, Abe has raised the profile of his cabinet’s efforts to advocate on behalf of the abductee families, and his appointment of Furuya Keiji as minister in charge of abductee issues suggests that compromise in any negotiated framework would depend on Pyongyang’s responsiveness to the Japanese request for information and meetings with those still alive in Pyongyang. 30 Japan has committed itself once again to an abductee first policy on North Korea. On denuclearization, Tokyo is likely to confine itself to enhanced sanctions and defense preparedness. The Iijima visit in May seems to have borne little fruit, yet the Abe Cabinet may try again to establish direct contact with Pyongyang to gain access to information on the abducted Japanese.

Until a bilateral avenue for reconciliation between Tokyo and Seoul can be explored, even the trilateral consultations with Washington could prove frustrating. China’s growing interest in sanctioning Pyongyang, and in playing a bigger role in pressing Kim Jong-un to come back to the negotiating table, has opened new opportunities for cooperation between Seoul and Beijing. Tokyo, therefore, relies more than ever on the US-Japan alliance to ensure that its interests in Northeast Asia are protected.

Japan’s future options in Northeast Asia, therefore, could be narrowed should Tokyo be unable to find accommodation with Beijing and Seoul. Of course, new opportunities for partnering on North Korea could become available, and Tokyo has increasingly relied on its strong relations with Mongolia to communicate with Pyongyang. On a broader regional level, recent efforts to push forward strategic cooperation with Russia could offer some opportunity for Abe, if managed well, to offset the Korean and Chinese effort to limit Japan’s options. Crafting a better strategic position in Asia will take time, however, and for now, Tokyo’s best way forward is to ensure that its interests continue to be at the top of Washington’s priorities as it copes with Kim Jong-un’s North Korea.

1. A similar argument was made in 2009 by Heigo Sato, “A Japanese Perspective on North
Korea: Troubled Bilateral Relations in a Complex Multilateral Framework,” International Journal of Korean Unification Studies18, no. 1 (2009): 54-92. Sato saw more promise in Japan’s economic leverage, however.

2. Sanctions on all imports and exports were extended for another two years in April 2013 following the February 2013 nuclear test. Cabinet Office of Japan, “Measures Taken by Japan Against North Korea,” April 5, 2013,

3. After the April 2009 missile test, Japan reduced the remittance amount subject to reporting from 10 million yen to 3 million yen. Cabinet Office of Japan, “Wagakuni no tai Kitachosen sochi ni tsuite,” April 10, 2009,

4. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, “Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration,” September 17, 2002,

5. The Ministry of Defense proposed in 1998 to establish a new elite unit dedicated to counter terrorism within the GSDF, and training was conducted with US Delta Forces. In March 2004, they were activated as Japan’s Special Force Group.

6. “Japan Shows off its Missile-Defense System,” online, December 9, 2012,

7. The October 3, 2013 announcement at the 2+2 ministerial in Tokyo announced that a second X-Band radar will be deployed in Kyogamisaki. US Department of State, “Joint Statement of the Security Consultative Committee: Toward a More Robust Alliance and Greater Shared Responsibilities,” October 3, 2013,

8. In 2005, as part of a broader effort to establish new emergency defense command and control guidelines, a law specifically designed to cope with the rapid response required in the face of a ballistic missile attack was passed by the Japanese parliament.

9. Ministry of Defense, Japan, “Korean Peninsula,” Defense of Japan 2013, Chapter 1, Section 2, 2013.

10. Glenn Kessler, “Envoy Warns of N. Korea Deal Fallout,” Washington Post, October 26, 2007.

11. Masashi Nishihara, “North Korea’s Trojan Horse,” Washington Post, August 14, 2003.

12. Even under Lee, however, Japan found trilateral cooperation difficult. See Sachio Nakato, “South Korea’s Paradigm Shift in North Korean Policy and Trilateral Cooperation among the U.S., Japan and Korea,” International Journal of Korean Unification Studies 17, no. 1 (2008): 41-61.

13. In the joint press conference with Wen Jiaobao after their summit meeting in Beijing, Lee Myung-bak and Hatoyama Yukio thanked China’s premier for his thorough briefing on North Korea and noted their shared interest in peace on the peninsula.

14. Hatoyama strongly supported Lee’s decision to seek international review of the Cheonan sinking, and stated that North Korea’s action cannot be condoned in any way, pledging continued close coordination with the ROK and the United States. “Comment by the Japanese Prime Minister on the Announcement by the Republic of Korea of the Results of the Investigation into the Sinking of a Military Patrol Vessel.

15. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, “Press Conference by Yoshito Sengoku,” November 23, 2010. Additional press conferences in the days following can be found at “The Shelling Incident by North Korea,”

16. Sheila A. Smith, “Japan Responds to Kim Jong-il’s Death,”

17.Sheila A. Smith, “Japan and the East China Sea Dispute,” Orbis 57, no. 3 (Summer 2012).

18. Blue House, Republic of Korea, “The President Meets with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel,” September 30, 2013,

19. Sheila A. Smith, “Japan Prepares for the Worst from Pyongyang,”

20. US Department of State, “Joint Statement of the Security Consultative Committee: Toward a More Robust Alliance and Greater Shared Responsibilities,” Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida, and Minister for Defense Itsunori Onodera, in Tokyo, October 3, 2013,

21. Sankei shimbun reported that Iijima met with Song Il-ho, Kim Young-il (Deputy Foreign Minister), and Kim Yong-nam (presumed to be close to Kim Jong-un). Sankei shimbun, May 20, 2013.

22. Yomiuri shimbun, May 21, 2013.

23. “Japan Tips Its Hand Via North Korea,” Asia Times, May 21, 2013,; The South China Morning Post headline read “Japanese Envoy’s Secret Pyongyang Trip More Worrying than Missile Launches,” May 18, 2013,

24. Ralph A. Cossa, “Japan-South Korea Relation: Time to Open Both Eyes,” July 2012,

25. Michishita Narushige, “Kim Jong Un, Uranium, and the Artillery Barrage: How to Think Strategically about North Korea,” CSIS Korea Platform, November 30, 2010.

26. Cabinet Office of Japan, “A Sincere and Open Partnership: Speech by Prime Minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi,” Singapore, January 14, 2002.

27. Park Geun-hee, “A Plan for Peace in East Asia: Cooperation between Korea, China, and Japan Needs a Correct Understanding of History,” Wall Street Journal, November 12, 2012, ; as well as her speech to the United States Congress on May 8, 2013, .

28. Michishita Narushige, “Alliances After Peace in Korea,” Survival 41, no.3 (Autumn 1999): 68-83.

29. James Schoff , “The New Missile Risk on the Korean Peninsula,” Carnegie Endowment for Peace, September 17, 2012,

30. Furuya has asked Japan’s Coast Guard to reopen its investigation of maritime incidents that might involve North Korean abductions. On June 7, the Asahi shimbun reported that 70,000 cases of sea accidents after 1962 were to be reinvestigated with the aim of discovering additional abductee cases. Furuya has also publicly stated that his agency will continue research on the 860 people that could have been abducted by North Korea. NHK Interview, June 21, 2013.

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