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N Korea at crossroads

Japan forgoes UN human rights motion on North Korea

Tokyo modifies hard-line stance in hopes of progress on abduction

North Korea has abducted over a dozen Japanese citizens. Miho Yamamoto, standing, is among those suspected of being taken by Pyongyang agents.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan will skip its annual submission to the United Nations of a resolution condemning North Korean human rights abuses, hoping to get Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table on past abductions of Japanese nationals.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed a desire to meet with Kim Jong Un after U.S. President Donald Trump brought up the abduction issue with Kim in the summits in June last year and again in February. By changing tack, Japan hopes to receive a response from Pyongyang.

The government has submitted a joint resolution with the European Union to the U.N. Human Rights Council since 2008. Thursday is the deadline for submitting resolutions to the Human Rights Council, now meeting in Geneva. Japan will vote for the North Korea resolution if the EU submits it on its own.

"We have reached this conclusion after assessing the outcome of the U.S.-North Korea summit and the situation around the abduction issue," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Wednesday, explaining Tokyo's decision to forgo the resolution.

"With a determination not to miss any chance, I will ultimately have to face Chairman Kim," Abe said the day before at a meeting with previous abductee Yasushi Chimura, repatriated in 2002 after a summit between then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

There has been speculation in the government and the ruling coalition that Pyongyang will try to curry favor with Tokyo following the breakdown of Kim's second summit with Trump.

"We are consistent in our stance emphasizing human rights diplomacy," Suga said, defending the government's move. "We will work toward improving the human rights situation in North Korea," he said.

While seeking dialogue, Japan will continue to cooperate with the international community on the pressure campaign against Pyongyang. The government plans to extend unilateral economic sanctions, including a trade ban, that are set to expire in April.

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