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Jakarta Post

Will Trump-Kim summit discuss human rights issues?

  • Seima Oki and Yujiro Okabe

    The Japan News/ANN

Washington/New York   /   Tue, June 5, 2018   /   09:21 am
Will Trump-Kim summit discuss human rights issues? his combination of file photos created on March 9, 2018 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un during the 5th Conference of the Workers' Party of Korea Cell Chairpersons in this photo from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) taken on December 23, 2017 and released on December 24, 2017 (L) and US President Donald Trump speaking to the press in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on February 9, 2018. (Agence France-Presse/Saul LOEB / AFP / KCNA via KNS )

Concern is growing among Japanese diplomatic officials and others over whether human rights issues, including Pyongyang’s abduction of Japanese nationals, will be discussed in detail at a US-North Korea summit meeting scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.

This concern has been prompted by the fact that US President Donald Trump did not talk about human rights issues at a Friday meeting with Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

After the meeting with Kim on Friday, Trump said to reporters, “We did not talk about human rights, no.”

Asked whether he would discuss human rights issues at the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Trump gave a vague answer, saying: “Could be. Yeah. Could be. I think we probably will.”

In his State of the Union Address at the end of January, Trump focused on human rights violations in North Korea. He invited a North Korean defector to Congress, and harshly criticized the North Korean regime as a “cruel dictatorship.” 

Regarding the abduction issue, Trump expressed his intention to make full efforts to achieve the return of Japanese abductees to Japan at a press conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in April. “Abduction is a very important issue for me because it’s very important to your prime minister,” Trump said. 

“To be honest, I was surprised that Trump clearly stated that he had not talked about human rights,” a source close to Japan-US diplomacy said on Saturday. “ We need to again explain to the Trump administration the importance of the abduction issue.”

Trump has given top priority to the full denuclearization of North Korea. To make progress in the process of normalizing diplomatic ties with North Korea in the future, which the United States is now discussing as a reward for Pyongyang’s denuclearization, it is crucial to improve the situation regarding North Korea’s human rights violations.

In particular, in the United States there are quite strong opinions in Congress, mostly from Democrats, about improving the human rights situation in North Korea. Given this situation, the US government needs to work on the human rights issues in order to conclude treaties requiring congressional approval and promote other matters.

Abe plans to visit Washington on Thursday to meet with Trump. Preparations are also underway for Foreign Minister Taro Kono’s visit to Washington and a meeting with US State Secretary Mike Pompeo on Wednesday. In their respective visits, they intend to again explain the importance of resolving the abduction issue.

“It’s easy to criticize Trump’s approach, but it’s an undeniable fact that he got North Korea moving to this stage,” a diplomatic source based in Washington said Saturday. “We’ll provide maximum support for encouraging Trump to work on human rights issues,” the source said.

This article appeared on The Japan News newspaper website, which is a member of Asia News Network and a media partner of The Jakarta Post