South Korea (SK) and the United States (US) have now both held summit meetings with North Korea (NK), considerably easing the danger of nuclear war in this part of the world. NK’s Kim Jong-Un first met with SK President Moon Jae-In last May 26, after which Kim met with US President Donald Trump last June 12. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe now seeks to meet with Kim, for Tokyo too has matters to settle with Pyongyang.
Through all these years that NK has assailed various nations that fought it in the Korean War of 1950-53, Japan chose to let the US take the lead in confronting that “Hermit Kingdom,” as it carried out nuclear and missile tests. It was the US whose troops led those of the various United Nations members that fought in that war. US General Douglas MacArthur, who commanded the UN forces, would have invaded the North had he not been recalled by then US President Harry S. Truman. Thus all these years, NK has focused on the US in its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
Japan has not been a direct protagonist in all this conflict, but NK, in its missile tests, has sent some of them into the sea just west of Japan, and over Japan into the Pacific Ocean. Japan also has long nursed a complaint against NK. In the 1970s and 1980s, the North reportedly abducted at least 17 Japanese to train its spies.
Now that NK appears to have mellowed in its antagonism towards its neighbors, Japanese PM Abe announced last week that he has contacted NK officials for a meeting with Kim. “I want to take a step forward and resolve the abduction issue after each of us breaks our mutual distrust,” he said. When ambassadors of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meet in Singapore this July, Japanese Foreign Minister Tao Kono said he will seek a meeting with his NK counterpart on the sidelines of the ASEAN meeting.
This might also be a good time for the Philippines to reach out to North Korea. As one of the countries that sent troops to join the UN forces that fought the North in 1950, we have been technically at war since then in the absence of a peace treaty. One of North Korea’s test missiles also came in our direction some months ago, splashing down in the waters near Batanes.
We may not be a major player in the dangerous nuclear dispute, but we could add our voice to the those countries that are now actively moving to end the threat posed by North Korea. By ourselves or through ASEAN, we should not be left behind in the ongoing peace efforts in our part of the world.