Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Strategic Refugee Offensive – Greater Threat Than Tepodon Missiles
SAISHU Koji / Journalist

June 17, 2002
The forced detention of North Koreans that took place at the Japanese consulate-general in Shenyang, China, exposed the tactlessness of Japanese diplomacy and concealed the reality of the inhumane dictatorship of North Korea (the People's Republic of North Korea), which the international community should have focused on instead. This is truly regrettable.

'Politics that doesn't create refugees'- that is the minimum requirement made by the international community on any government. 'Preventive action' to avoid the generation of refugees must take precedence, and is more important than posthumous action in response to refugees. In its dealings with North Korea, the Japanese government has been sincere to the point of being subservient in pursuing a policy of 'preventing refugees.'

Refugees are generated mainly by shortages in food and energy. They differ on this point from 'political exiles' fleeing political oppression. Food production in North Korea has deteriorated rapidly since the late 1990s due to droughts, floods and a failure in agricultural policy, and people are reportedly dying of starvation. The Japanese government has been providing food aid by donating several hundred thousand tons of rice. It is also cooperating in the construction of nuclear power plants as a participant of KEDO (Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization) in an effort to prevent the lack of oil and electricity from causing a collapse in daily life.

Despite such efforts, the response so far from the North Korean government has been a determined silence on highly suspicious allegations concerning the 'kidnapping of Japanese nationals,' smuggling of stimulants and narcotics into Japan, illegal entry and exit of saboteurs, and test launches of its 'Tepodon' long-range missiles above the Japanese archipelago. A government that pursues costly development of missiles and nuclear weapons - of which North Korea is a suspect - when its people are starving is by no means normal, and the Japanese government, which knowingly provides aid, isn't any better.

Free food aid should be continued as long as Japan has a surplus in rice production, but only under strict conditions. Firstly, North Korea must guarantee that food will be distributed among its people and not be used for military purposes, and secondly, it must subtract a corresponding monetary sum from its military budget.

Meanwhile, provision of energy must be centered on fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas; nuclear power plants should be kept within Japan and not be constructed in North Korea. That's because the country lags behind in technology for operating, maintaining and managing such plants, expertise and infrastructure, and because there is a fear it might divert spent nuclear fuel for nuclear weapons.

Japan could turn a blind eye on the desperate state in North Korea. But the cost would be the creation of a horde of refugees and their arrival on Japanese shores. If they set out to sea on a raft, they could easily reach the Japanese islands. Local governments along the coast of the Sea of Japan may be forced to allocate schools and public buildings to house the refugees, and if that isn't enough, ask each household to take on several refugees. If Japan has the resolve to accept such a situation, it could respond to the Shenyang incident by declaring refugees welcome, but the Japanese people have yet to reach that point of maturity in terms of international sensitivity. In recent years, Western countries have become less receptive to refugees, and growing public support for political parties of the extreme right and ultra nationalists may be a sign of rejection against refugees on the part of the native populace.

North Korea has so far maintained its "Closed Door" policy and prevented an outflow of its nationals, but my greatest concern is that it could end this policy and adopt a strategy of using refugees as a bargaining weapon for winning economic aid. Terrorists and saboteurs would no doubt lurk among such refugees. And that would pose a greater threat than the 'Tepodon' missiles.

The writer is editorial writer of the quarterly “Arab” magazine.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

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2002年 6月 17日








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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Strategic Refugee Offensive – Greater Threat Than Tepodon Missiles