For once, North Korea has a point – what IS Tamogami doing teaming up with the abductee families?

(UPDATE: In case you didn’t notice, Japan got totally SLAMMED by NK in these articles)

The AFP:

NKorea slams Japan over kidnap issue
Tue Mar 10, 9:56 am ET
SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea accused Japan Tuesday of raising an outcry over the abduction of its civilians in an attempt to find a pretext for recolonising the peninsula.


The North said its military would launch a “merciless” strike on Japan if the former colonial power “dare pre-empt an attack” on the communist country.

The warning came as relatives of a Japanese woman kidnapped by North Korea arrived in South Korea in an attempt to clarify her fate.

Japan, which colonised the Korean peninsula 1910-1945, is trying to find an “absurd” excuse to realise its ambitions for re-invasion, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said in a commentary, without referring to the case of Yaeko Taguchi.

“Japan’s noisy and disturbing trumpeting about ‘the abduction issue’ is nothing but a prelude to its operation to stage a comeback to Korea,” the agency said.

Taguchi‘s family will meet Kim Hyun-Hee, a pardoned former spy for the North, in the southern city of Busan on Wednesday.

Taguchi’s elder brother Shigeo Iizuka, 70, and her son, Koichi Iizuka, 32, arrived in Busan along with Japanese officials, Yonhap news agency said.

Pyongyang has admitted kidnapping Taguchi in 1978 when she was 22 to train its spies, but said she died in a car crash in July 1986.

But the ex-spy Kim, who had taken Japanese lessons from Taguchi, has said in interviews with local media that Taguchi was alive until at least 1987.

The article makes it sound like the North is plainly spitting in the face of the abduction victim families. But not even North Korea is that tone-deaf. No, their style is much more Norimitsu Onishi than Cruella DeVille. The actual KCNA story says nothing about the PR efforts of the abduction victims and concentrates only the recent statement of someone we’ve covered here before:

KCNA Slams Japanese Militarists’ Agitation of War

Tamogami, former chief of staff of the Air “Self-Defense Force”, in a recent lecture given on the subject of “the abduction issue”, let loose a spate of reckless remarks calling on Japan to “take the posture of attacking north Korea by mobilizing the SDF.”

These are unpardonable outbursts which can be heard only from a man who is hell-bent on the moves to escalate the confrontation with the DPRK and start a war against it.

As well known to the world, Tamogami is a wicked Right-wing reactionary cursed and censured at home and abroad for having spoken for the Japanese militarist forces of late.

What he uttered is peppered with a spate of sophism intended to turn Japan into a military power and realize overseas expansion let loose by the successive Japanese reactionaries ranging from reckless remarks shamelessly whitewashing their past war of aggression to outbursts claiming access to nuclear weapons and the exercise of the “right to collective self-defense.”

Tomogami’s utterances indicate that the Japanese reactionaries’ wild ambition to conquer the Korean Peninsula and other countries in Asia and the rest of the world has reached an extreme phase. This is not only a blatant challenge to the DPRK’s sovereignty but a serious threat to the peace and security of Asia.

The provocative jargon let loose by Tamogami suffices to prove that he is an offspring of those who advocated the militarization of the Japanese society and the process to turn it reactionary and an icon of militarist Japan bereft of the normal way of thinking and off the track of normal development.

The AFP sees a timing decision in this KCNA story, but I am sure the KCNA editors would argue that Tamogami’s timing is too perfect as he is raising his voice at a time of heightened tensions and on a day when the morning news shows all feature the tearful meeting between the plane bomber and the abduction victims. Here is what he said during the February 28 speech specifically on the abduction issue to 250 people at an event sponsored by a “citizens’ group” in Nagoya:

“The abduction issue will not be resolved unless we show (North Korea) a posture that we will beat you to a pulp, even if we have to mobilize the Self Defense Forces.”… When asked specifically what he meant by “beat you to a pulp,” he stated, “North Korea will not budge unless we show the posture that we will use the Self Defense Forces to attack.”

Masumoto and Tamogami
Masumoto and Tamogami

Interestingly, Teruaki Masumoto, secretary general of the abductee families association and younger brother of an abductee, seemed to agree with Tamogami: “If we could mobilize our Self Defense Force in the same manner as other countries, we could have sunk the spy ships and considerably lessened the number of abductees.”

That North Korea is the detested rogue state that actually perpetrated the kidnappings (and likely murdered/forced suicide on many of them, all under state sponsorship) goes without saying. Nothing can be more absurd than the KCNA’s fantasy of having credibility on this issue, or on just about any issue for that matter.  But while it is always perilous to see North Korea’s side of any debate, I want to emphasize two things:

  1. This insistence on characterizing the most radical right wing elements in Japan as the voice of an influential group who could incite warlike rage in the Japanese populace at a moment’s notice is typical of many “liberal” Japan observers, and it’s no less wrong when they do it. If anything, the far right engages in guerrilla PR tactics to wedge the Japanese government toward one policy or another. That is hardly the image of a group that’s in control. It’s one of the ultimate arguments to keep Japan a weakened client state and it’s a powerful one at that.
  2. To that end, the abduction victims’ movement doesn’t seem to be helping assuage such concerns. Have the victims’ groups ever met a right-wing demagogue they didn’t like? You have to wonder how far they are willing to take their campaign to prioritize this issue over a possible nuclear showdown.   Far from denouncing Tamogami’s comment, the groups appear to be welcoming him into the fold (perhaps a smart move for someone with right-wing political ambitions). On March 6, a week after the controversial comment, leaders of two such groups joined Tamogami for a rally to save the abduction victims. His speech title: “Correct Historical Recognition and the Abduction Issue.”

What the hell is happening in NK?

Reading this FT article makes it sound as if NK is acting seriously belligerent:

North Korea on Monday cut its military hotline to Seoul and put its million-man army at battle stations, ratcheting up tensions as South Korean and US troops began war games that Pyongyang warned could spark open conflict.

UN forces last week tried to counter North Korean claims that the exercises were a smokescreen for an invasion by promising to keep the hotline open, giving Pyongyang advance warning of anything that could cause a misunderstanding.

North Korea’s official KCNA news agency quoted an army spokesman as saying: “It is nonsensical to maintain the normal channels of communication when the South Korean puppets are in a frenzy about these military exercises, levelling their guns at fellow countrymen in league with foreign forces.” 

Severing military communications had an immediate effect on workers trying to reach South Korea’s investment zone at Kaesong in North Korea. Some 726 South Koreans could not reach their factories in Kaesong on Monday because all crossings require clearance on the military hotline.

The communist state also warned that any attempt to shoot down a rocket it plans to launch soon would be an act of war. Pyongyang argues it is simply planning to blast a satellite into space whereas spies insist this is a ruse for testing the Taepodong-2 long-range missile, which could hit Alaska.

South Korea said it deeply regretted North Korea’s moves and sought the immediate resumption of traffic to and from Kaesong.

“As we have mentioned several times, the US-South Korean exercises are defensive in nature and are part of annual training,” said Kim Ho-nyoun, spokesman for the unification ministry.

Even by its own standards, Pyongyang’s rhetoric has been exceptionally bellicose during recent months.

The reclusive state has torn up its non-aggression pacts with the South, vowed not to recognise a tense maritime border and last week said it could not guarantee the safety of South Korean passenger aircraft in its airspace. Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s dictator, is furious that Lee Myung-bak, South Korea’s conservative president, has not courted him in the manner of previous leftwing administrations and has made vital aid to the North contingent on progress in talks about dismantling Pyongyang’s atomic work. Although it tested its first nuclear device in 2006, most military experts do not believe Pyongyang has mastered the technology required to fit a warhead on a missile.

On the home front, Kim Jong-il was, as expected, returned to his country’s most powerful body, the Supreme People’s Assembly, with a vote of 100 per cent in Sunday’s elections. Although that result was a foregone conclusion, analysts are eager to see whether one of his sons has also gained a seat. That would be the clearest sign yet that Mr Kim is grooming a successor, following intelligence reports he suffered a stroke last year.

All very troubling!

Invest in North Korea?!

Yes, says the man in the bowtie:

Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) — A U.K. businessman is seeking to raise $50 million to invest in North Korea, reviving a 2005 plan after the U.S. government removed the communist regime from its list of countries that support terrorism.

ChosunFund Pte. Ltd. will join with North Korean partners for mining and energy projects, Colin McAskill, founder of the Singapore-incorporated fund, said in an interview.

“The country holds huge natural resources but is capital starved and lacks the technology and management skills with which to develop them,” McAskill said.

McAskill, 69, said he has been consulting on potential North Korean projects since 1987. While the country attracts one-off investment deals such as a recent contract licensing Orascom Telecom Holding SAE to provide wireless telephone services, it has struggled to raise money from global financial markets since defaulting on overseas debt in the 1970s.

London-based emerging markets money manager Fabien Pictet & Partners Ltd. was considering a fund that would invest in South Korean companies that do business with the North. The idea is “on hold for the time being,” Jonathan Neill, managing director, said in an e-mail.

I understand that the terror designation was a technical barrier for to much economic aid in addition to banning most financial institutions from doing business with NK. And I know saying investing in North Korea is a bad idea is like shooting fish in a barrel.

But the US political decision to remove NK from the list doesn’t strike me as any real vote of confidence in the country, since North Korea appears to remain the dictionary definition of a state-run criminal enterprise, even if it hasn’t strictly engaged in “terrorism” the 80s. Nor is this is any real sign that the situation in North Korea is at all stable.  The ailing health of Kim Jong Il also plays a decisively destabilizing role. We could easily see a succession battle worthy of imperial Rome when he finally dies.

Still, you have to give the man credit for sticking with the idea for more than 20 years. There is always the chance that NK will stabilize somehow, so getting in on the ground floor would then be seen as a smart move. There could also be a rationale for investing in SK companies who take on NK projects with the backing of the South Korean government, or with some other guarantee to offset losses.

Graham and Kim

Our friend Curzon over at the Cominganarchy blog posted last week an excellent piece on the history of the involvement between the familes of the Reverend Billy Graham and the Kim dynasty of North Korea. The connections are, as usual, longer and more interesting than one would expect from just reading the news. I highly recommend reading it.