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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Japan's press outraged by kidnaps
President Kim Chong-il and Prime Minister Koizumi
North Korea had always denied the abductions
Japanese papers share a sense of outrage at the news that eight Japanese kidnapped by the North Koreans in the 1970s and 80s are dead.

They differ only in their suggestions of what to do next.

"The shocking revelation that the eight nationals are dead has created a new hurdle for the Koizumi government's effort to normalise diplomatic relations with Pyongyang," the financial Nihon Keizai Shimbun says.

While the way to dialogue is now open, the paper says, difficult issues such as compensation for the victims' families and the punishment of guilty parties must now be addressed.


North Korea has exposed its own insanity

Sankei Shimbun

"These issues, along with North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile development programme, as well as the size of Japan's economic aid, are certain to become a major stumbling block for the normalisation talks," the paper adds.

It says the public is "increasingly suspicious" over the circumstances of the deaths and that compensation claims are "tricky for Tokyo" because North Korea, for its part, wants reparations for Japan's colonial rule in the Korean peninsula.

Misguided admission?

Japan's largest paper, centrist Yomiuri Shimbun is similarly suspicious.

True, North Korea leader Kim Chong-il denied his own involvement in the alleged abductions.

"However, it is difficult to take this at face value," the paper says.


North Korea pockets its pride to survive

Mainichi Shimbun

At the time of the abductions Kim was already high up in the party and must have had some knowledge, the paper adds. Therefore, "he is not exempt from some blame".

Writing in the right-leaning Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese professor of politics says that by admitting the abductions, "North Korea has exposed its own insanity".

The North Korean leader has "personally admitted his country is a terrorist state".

Some commentators say the admission is a concession from the North and praise it as a step forward in Japan-North Korean relations.

"Such a line of thinking is basically wrong," the professor believes. Now is "not the time to negotiate for normalisation". Rather, Tokyo should step up the pressure.

Swallowed pride

A more charitable view is taken by Japan's third largest paper, centrist Mainichi Shimbun.

"North Korea pockets its pride to survive," the paper says, suggesting the gesture should at least be acknowledged.


The North may admit to the alleged possession of nuclear weapons

Asahi Shimbun

It also gives prominence - and therefore some credence - to Kim Chong-il's words of apology.

And while it highlights what it deems the leader's ulterior motive - he is looking for "practical gains" to overcome his country's grave economic problems - that is, the paper says, at least a reasonable goal.

"To overcome the economic and food problem... Kim probably has no choice but to develop Japan-North Korea ties."

Nuclear angle

Yet another slant is provided by the centrist Asahi Shimbun.

A commentator admits to being genuinely surprised by the fact that not only was there an admission, but an apology as well. This could lead in turn to movement on the nuclear front.

"The North may admit to the alleged possession of nuclear weapons by saying something like: We once possessed them and hid them. But they have been scrapped."

What is important is to "guide the North's drastic change" in policy over the coming months, the author concludes.

According to a poll reported by Sankei Shimbun, 71% of respondents in a telephone poll conducted after the Kim-Koizumi summit gave a "positive assessment" to the overall outcome.

Respondents said it was a "great step" which showed courage. But they were divided over the abduction issue, the paper said, without elaborating.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

18 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
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