Jan 4, 2021

Watch Report No.27

Watch Report No.27   November 30, 2020

§Mobilize Voices of Civil Society to Move Politically Entangled and Reluctant Governments to End the Korean War

“The end-of-war declaration will, indeed, open the door to complete denuclearization and permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”

This statement made at the General Debate of this year’s UN General Assembly [1] by South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for the UN and the international community to provide support so that the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) can enter into “an era of reconciliation and prosperity” by means of an end-of-war declaration.

Soon after achieving liberation from Japanese colonial rule as a result of Japan’s defeat in the Asia-Pacific War, North and South Korea were intentionally divided into two countries by great powers. The Korean War which started soon after the division has not formally ended to date. How the upcoming change of the US administration will affect its policy towards the DPRK has drawn much attention. However, we need to recognize the simple common sense diplomatic solution once again, that is, “the end of the Korean War declaration will open the door.”

Undoubtedly, the DPRK has developed nuclear weapons as deterrence against US aggression. And as UN ambassador of the DPRK Kim Song stated at the General Debate of this year’s UN General Assembly [2], the DPRK perceives that US threat against the DPRK still continues.

“ …the nuclear threat on DPRK continues unabated along with all sorts of hostile act taking place before the very eyes. It is an undeniable reality of today that cutting-edge military hardware including stealth fighters continue to be introduced into the Korean peninsula and nuclear strike means of all kinds are directly aimed at the DPRK.”

Although UN Ambassador Kim Song didn’t name a state, it is obvious that the DPRK means it is the US that is engaged in “hostile act” against the DPRK and poses “the nuclear threat” to the DPRK. Regarding the military buildup in which South Korea has engaged, based on the US-ROK alliance, the DPRK also considers the US as driving force behind this buildup.

Additionally, since 2018, DPRK nuclear policy has made it clear that war deterrence based on nuclear weapons will establish preconditions for directing all its national efforts to the construction of a socialist economy [3]. The above-mentioned statement by UN Ambassador Kim Song described the policy as follows:

“The conclusion we have drawn is that peace never comes of itself by mere wish of one side and it is not granted by someone else either. In the present world, where high-handedness based on strength is rampant, genuine peace can only be safeguarded when one possesses the absolute strength to prevent war itself. As we have obtained the reliable and effective war deterrent for self-defence by tightening our belts, peace and security of the Korean peninsula and the region are now firmly defended.

Mr. President,

Based on its reliable guarantee for safeguarding the security of the state and people, the DPRK is now directing all its effort to economic construction at ease.”

Thus, the DPRK has justified its possession of nuclear weapons as a war deterrent for self-defense and economic development, and as a natural consequence, the DPRK government has repeatedly expressed it is ready to abandon its nuclear weapons on the condition that US threat against the DPRK is eliminated. In March 2018, Chairman Kim Jong-un told a South Korean delegation that there is no reason for keeping nuclear weapons if the military threat against the DPRK is eliminated. And “the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” to which Kim Jong-un committed at the US-DPRK summit in June 2018 was agreed upon along with President Trump’s commitment of “security guarantees to the DPRK,” and mutual commitments to the “establishment of new US-DPRK relations” and “building of a peace regime,” and others [4].

Therefore, elimination of US threat and ending of the US hostile policy towards the DPRK are essential conditions to realize a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

Here lies the significance of the end-of-war declaration.

It is self-evident that to put an end to a state of war lasting for 70 years is a logical first step in a process to eliminate the US threat and hostile policy toward North Korea. It is unlikely that North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons upon which the country completely relies as deterrence against the US as long as the Korean War does not formally end and the US hostile policy towards the DPRK continues. President Moon Jae-in’s statement that, “The end-of-war declaration will, indeed, open the door to complete denuclearization and permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula” articulates the correct path forward.

The US is not the only party to the Korean War. However, it’s no exaggeration to say that realization of the end-of-war declaration depends on willingness of the US government to act. Ever since the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed among the US, the DPRK and China in 1953, an armistice has continued, and then during armistice, the US and South Korea established diplomatic relations and normalized relations with China. Also, South Korea and the DPRK made the Panmunjom Declaration in April 2018 and agreed to make the end-of-war declaration in 2018, which wasn’t actually realized. In addition, at the third Moon-Jae-in and Kim Jon-un inter-Korean summit in September 2018, the two countries signed “The Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain” as an annex to the 2018 Pyongyang Declaration and agreed to “cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain” including land, air and sea [5], and made a de facto end-of-war declaration between the two countries.

 What remains to address is the US-DPRK relationship, and although the DPRK has proposed negotiations towards the end of the Korean War and a peace treaty, the US has rejected such proposals.

There are various reasons why the US cannot go as far as the end-of-war declaration. Not only US security policy related to South Korea, Japan and China, but factors related to US world military strategy are involved. Additionally, the domestic situations of US allies such as South Korea and Japan are also part of the picture. In those countries, public opinion regarding the future of the alliance with the US has remained divided over the past several decades and this has weakened the leverage of South Korea and Japan to demand the US government to make a policy decision regarding this issue.

Regarding the US government, its true intention may be that it doesn’t want to make the end-of-war declaration. It could lead to an unavoidable argument on the reduction or even withdrawal of the US Forces in South Korea and Japan that play a critical role in supporting US global military and economic hegemony, along with other US military bases all over the world. Once the end of the Korean War is declared, the mission of the United Nations Command (UNC) will be accomplished, inevitably leading to discussion about the future of the US Forces, Korea (USFK). Especially, under the current situation in which the US has been trying to contain and restrict China, a rapidly rising global military and economic power, the US would be inclined to avoid making decisions which will lead to weaken the US military power in East Asia. Additionally, there are defense industries and politicians who have benefited from leaving military tension to persist in East Asia. Or, if the US agreed to make an end-of-war declaration, which is considered a North Korean demand, prior to denuclearization of North Korea, some might interpret such moves as “concession” or “a weak-kneed attitude.” In fact, media repeated critical coverage of President Trump who had expressed his readiness to end the Korean War at the Singapore summit, reporting that Trump is seeking “political theatrics” for historic achievement [6] and trying to “make an achievement” for the sake of “the 2018 US midterm elections” [7]. Eventually, it seems that President Trump is likely to leave the White House without making an end-of-war declaration.

In South Korea and Japan, not a few people see the US military presence is necessary for maintaining regional peace and security. Despite President Moon Jae-in’s enthusiasm, for the South Korean government to be able to urge the US to make the end-of-war declaration, there are a number of domestic issues to be resolved regarding the future of the US-ROK alliance. Such issues include the already decided purchase of US state-of-the-art weapons South Korea, how to handle the Terminal High-Attitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and troops deployed under the pretext of DPRK missile threat, consensus building towards reduction of rapidly increased national defense spending on the grounds of DPRK threat, and other issues.

The Japanese government has also continued a military buildup using the rationale of the DPRK threat. The United Nations Command (UNC)-Rear is headquartered in Japan, serving as an existing mechanism for Japan to host visiting foreign troops other than those of the US and to conduct joint military exercises with the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

Regardless of such domestic situations in the US and related countries, there is no justifiable reason to oppose ending the Korean War. Such self-interested intransigence is unacceptable as the US, as well as its followers in South Korea and Japan, to retain a state of war for the purpose of securing its hegemony and vested interests.

When governments are unable to do the right thing, the impetus for governments to overcome obstacles must be generated by civil society. It is necessary that, in response to President Moon Jae-in’s call for an end-of-war declaration, voices of civil society unite across national borders. These voices that call for an end to the Korean War will be heard by the US government and, if necessary, other related countries’ governments. Strong and worldwide campaigns like those calling for abolition of nuclear weapons and measures against Climate Change are required.

More than 350 South Korean civil society organizations and others have issued the “Korea Peace Appeal” [8] and have been conducting “a campaign which aims to end the Korean War through collecting 100 million signatures to endorse the Korea Peace Appeal.” We would like to earnestly support this initiative. This campaign puts forth the following four slogans:

l  End the Korean War and establish a peace agreement

l  Create a Korean Peninsula and a world free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threat

l  Resolve the conflict with dialogue and cooperation instead of sanctions and pressure

l  Break from the vicious cycle of the arms race and invest in human security and environmental sustainability 

Such a campaign will help grow global public awareness and support for the End-of-War Declaration of the Korean War. (Hajime MAEKAWA )


[1] Address by President Moon Jae-in at the 75th Session of United Nations General Assembly, September 22, 2020.
https://estatements.unmeetings.org/estatements/10.0010/20200922/cVOfMr0rKnhR/vstE46z3tXBY_en.pdf[2] Statement by Head of the DPRK Delegation H.E. Ambassador Kim Song, Permanent Representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the United Nations at the General Debate of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly, September 29, 2020. https://estatements.unmeetings.org/estatements/10.0010/20200929/azzQgcBAMYqv/WaUGJrE2AJvT_en.pdf
[3] For example, “Kim Jong Un Makes New Year Address,” KCNA, January 1, 2018 or “Report on 5th Plenary Meeting of 7th C.C., WPK,” KCNA, January 1, 2020. http://www.kcna.co.jp/index-e.htm Search for the articles by date.
[4] Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Singapore Summit, White House, June 12, 2018.

[5] “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain,” the National Committee on North Korea, September 19, 2020.
[6] “Trump referred to an end to the Korean War and indicated the possibility of the signature, to make the US-North Korea dialogue historic” (tentative translation), The Asahi Shimbun, June 9, 2018 (in Japanese).
[7] “The US-North Korea dialogue will be an achievement before the midterm election for the US and the dialogue became possible because North Korea had completed nuclear weapons,” (tentative translation) The Mainichi Shimbun, June 8, 2018 (in Japanese).
[8] Text of the Appeal: https://en.endthekoreanwar.net/appeal

Nov 13, 2020

Watch Report No.26

  Watch Report No.26   October 5, 2020

§Japan Should Consider Lifting Autonomous Sanctions and Change Its Hostile Policy against the DPRK
On September 16, 2020, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had continued a hostile policy against the Democratic People’s Public of Korea (hereafter, DPRK) for many years, stepped down and Yoshihide Suga succeeded him as prime minister. The inauguration of a new administration creates an opportunity for policy change.

The Abe administration’s hostile policy against the DPRK, which continues to impose sanctions without any due consideration, should be reviewed. If Japan continues to have such a blatantly hostile policy, it will be unable to seize the opportunity for successful negotiations with the DPRK at a time when negotiations on abductions, nuclear weapons and missiles can be expected to continue. Japan should consider lifting its autonomous economic sanctions as a stimulus for the resumption of dialogue with the DPRK. Japan’s partial lifting of sanctions may signal its policy change and open the door to dialogue. Based on this consideration, this paper will summarize the development of Japan’s autonomous sanctions against the DPRK and examine possible options for partial lifting of sanctions by the Japanese government.

Types and Structure of Japan’s Autonomous Sanctions
Japan’s move toward imposing autonomous sanctions against the DPRK began when the DPRK admitted that it had abducted Japanese citizens and apologized at the Japan-DPRK summit held in September 2002. Although some abductees returned to Japan, public backlash against the DPRK intensified partly because the DPRK took a negative stance toward further investigations on Japanese abductees who have chances of surviving. More and more people within the Japanese government started to insist that Japan should pressure the DPRK to resolve the abduction issue by imposing economic sanctions [1].

However, under the Japanese legal system of the time, UN Security Council resolutions were required for the Japanese government to impose sanctions against foreign countries. Under such circumstances, in November 2002, six lawmakers including Yoshihide Suga and Taro Kono set up a “Study Group for Diplomatic Cards against North Korea.” They probably didn’t necessarily consider Japan’s autonomous sanctions as a diplomatic card solely to resolve abduction issues, but the group took the initiative to advance lawmaker-initiated legislation for Japan to be able to impose autonomous economic sanctions. As a result, in February 2004, the “Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act” (FEFTA) was amended and the “Act on Special Measures concerning Prohibition of Entry of Specified Ships into Ports” (hereafter, “Ships Entry Prohibition Act”) was enacted. These two laws are also called “Economic Sanctions Related Laws” [2]. After that, the “Act for Special Measures on Cargo Inspection etc. Conducted by the Government in Accordance to the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1874 etc.” (hereafter, “Cargo Inspection Act”) was enacted (2010), supplementing the “Economic Sanctions Related Laws”. 

As described below, Japan’s sanctions were based on the above laws and have been implemented by restricting and blocking movements of persons, goods, money, and vessels [3].

(1) Restrictions on Movement of Persons
Restrictions on the movement of persons are implemented according to the “Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act” (ICRRA). Article 3 of the Act bans the landing of a person who intends to land in Japan without obtaining authorized permission from an immigration inspector, and Article 5 lists reasons for the denial of such landing. For instance, according to the Act, the Minister of Justice may deny the landing of “a person who is likely to commit an act which could be detrimental to the interests or public security of Japan.”

(2) Restrictions on Movement of Goods
Restrictions on movement of goods are implemented based on FEFTA. In 2004, Article 10 of the Act was amended, which enabled it to impose sanctions by cabinet decision when necessary to maintain peace and security in Japan. According to the Act, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry may restrict export (Article 48) and import (Article 52).

(3) Financial Restrictions
Financial restrictions, as well as restrictions on movement of goods, are implemented based on the FEFTA. According to the Act, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry may regulate international remittances (Article 16), import and export of payment means such as cash, checks, and securities (Article 19), capital transactions through asset-freezing and restrictions on investments (Article 21), direct outward investment (Article 23), specified capital transactions including loans for trade settlement (Article 24), service transactions (Article 25) and others.

(4) Restrictions on Transport
Restrictions on transport covers aircraft and maritime transport. Regulations on aircraft are implemented based on the Civil Aeronautics Act while regulations on maritime transport are implemented based on the Ships Entry Prohibition Act and the Cargo Inspection Act. The Ships Entry Prohibition Act enables the Japanese government to ban port calls of specified foreign vessels when the cabinet judges that such measures are necessary to maintain peace and security in Japan. The Cargo Inspection Act was enacted to implement UN Security Council resolution 1874, adopted in response to the second nuclear test by the DPRK (May 25, 2009).

As described above, Japanese sanctions are enforced by restricting movements of people, goods, money, and vessels on the basis of ICRRA, FEFTA, Civil Aeronautics Act, the Ships Entry Prohibition Act, and the Cargo Inspection Act.

Distinct Nature of Japanese Sanctions against the DPRK
As mentioned, the government of Japan enacted the Economic Sanctions Related Laws in 2004 with an eye to imposing autonomous sanctions against the DPRK, motivated by the abduction issues. Perhaps, given that background, Japan’s autonomous sanctions against the DPRK have the following characteristics.

Firstly, when imposing sanctions against the DPRK, the Japanese government mentions the abduction issue irrespective of the direct cause triggering sanctions. Japan’s autonomous sanctions began in July 2006, and except for its initial sanctions, the Japanese government has always mentioned three items: the abduction, nuclear and missile issues. Despite the fact that all sanctions were imposed against the ongoing DPRK’s security activities including nuclear and missile tests, the government of Japan has always mentioned abductions which are not, in fact, related to such activities.

Secondly, rather than responding to each DPRK’s activity which invites sanctions, Japan’s autonomous sanctions tend to be a general expression of its hostile policy toward the DPRK or its regime. In contrast, sanctions by the UN Security Council began with those which would restrict DPRK activities related to nuclear and missile programs and the DPRK leadership who advanced those programs. In addition, UN sanctions were structured cautiously in a manner so as to minimize adverse effects on ordinary DPRK people, at least until 2016. However, Japan went as far as to restrict movements of goods which might affect the livelihood of ordinary DPRK people from an early stage of the autonomous sanctions. Such a relentless stance of the Japanese government is different than that of the UN Security Council and reflects its hostile stance toward the DPRK.

In the following section, we will summarize the development of Japan’s autonomous sanctions in more detail.

Development of Japan’s Autonomous Sanctions against the DPRK
(1) Sanctions Triggered by Nuclear Tests and Missile Launches (July 2006 - July 2014)
The first autonomous sanctions against the DPRK by the Japanese government took place under the Junichiro Koizumi administration. On July 5, 2006, the very day that the DPRK launched seven missiles, the Japanese government imposed a set of autonomous sanctions against the DPRK: the regulations on transport (The ban on the entry into Japanese ports of the Mangyongbong-92 cargo-passenger ferry and the ban on the entry of chartered flights from the DPRK), and the restrictions on the movement of persons (The ban, in principle, on the entry of North Korean authority officials, the landing of North Korean crew members, the re-entry of North Korean authority officials living in Japan if they travel to North Korea, and the visit of Japanese government officials to the DPRK as well as the request to all Japanese nationals not to visit the DPRK) [4]. Ten days later, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1695, which froze assets of fifteen entities and one individual who provided support for North Korea’s programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles [5]. This can be considered as narrower and limited sanctions as compared to the Japanese autonomous sanctions.

On October 9, 2006, the DPRK conducted its first nuclear weapons test. In response, on October 11, the first Abe administration decided to take a set of tough measures based on reasons such as “the threat to Japan’s national security has doubled” and “North Korea has not made any sincere response toward the resolution of the abductions issue.” For instance, the administration strengthened the restrictions on transport and the movement of goods and persons. It expanded the scope of the ban from the Mangyongbong-92 ferry to all vessels registered as North Korean. The Japanese government expanded the scope of the ban on entry in principle to all nationals of the DPRK. As for the movement of goods, it banned all imports from the DPRK except for those made for humanitarian purposes. However, regarding export, Japan only implemented the Security Council resolution adopted on October 14 [6].

At this point, the government of Japan abruptly took relentless measures such as the ban on entry of all North Korean vessels and the embargo on all imports from North Korea which may affect the livelihood of the North Korean people.

In contrast, UN Security Council resolution 1781 adopted on October 14 only prohibited exports of arms and materials related to weapons of mass destruction, and luxury goods to the DPRK [7]. UN sanctions at this point in time targeted DPRK leadership as well as individuals and organizations considered to have been engaged in nuclear and missile programs, and avoided restricting trade which might cause considerable adverse impact on the North Korean people. This characteristic of UN sanctions remained until the time that the DPRK conducted its forth nuclear test. Almost a decade before that, the government of Japan imposed the embargo on imports from the DPRK which may have considerable effect on the livelihood of the North Korean people.

The relentless stance of the Japanese government persisted. On April 10, 2009, the Taro Aso administration tightened financial restrictions on the DPRK, responding to the DPRK’s missile launch on April 5. Namely, the cabinet decision lowered the maximum amount of money that one can bring from Japan to the DPRK without official permission from one million yen to 300,000 yen, and also lowered the maximum amount of money that one can pay to a person whose address is in the DPRK without official permission from 30 million yen to 10 million yen. The Security Council did not adopt a new resolution in response to the missile launch, and the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea merely added three more entities to the list of asset freeze targets [8].

On May 25, 2009, the DPRK conducted its second nuclear test. In response to that, on June 12, the Security Council adopted resolution 1874 (2009) which obliged member states to prevent transfer of assets that could contribute to the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction-related and ballistic missile-related programs or activities, and prevent specialized training related to those activities. Even at this point in time, UN sanctions aimed solely at activities related to the DPRK's nuclear and missile programs. However, on July 16, Japan under the Aso administration announced its intention to impose a set of additional sanctions and banned all exports to the DPRK (except for those for humanitarian purposes) and expanded the scope of sanctions to foreigners. The Aso administration banned the landing of foreign crew members to Japan if they were sentenced for violation of sanctions measures on the DPRK, and also banned the re-entry of foreign citizens residing in Japan in the case in which they travel to the DPRK and if those people were sentenced for the violation of sanctions measures on the DPRK [9]. 

At this point in June 2009, Japan took measures far beyond the UN sanctions. It banned all export and import to/from the DPRK, including civilian goods which were not directly related to the DPRK's nuclear and missile programs.

Japan’s autonomous sanctions unfolded one after another. Triggered by the sinking of the Republic of Korea (hereafter, ROK) Navy corvette Cheonan on March 26 2010, which was seen as an incident caused by a DPRK torpedo (The DPRK denied its responsibility for the incident) [10], and the third nuclear test by the DPRK on February 12, 2013, Japan imposed additional sanctions on the DPRK. The latter sanctions were tougher than those enforced by UN Security Council [11].

(2) The Japan-DPRK Stockholm Agreement and Relaxation of Sanctions (July 2014 - February 2016)
In December 2011, North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-Il was succeeded by Kim Jong-Un while, in Japan, the second Abe administration began in December 2012.

Under these circumstances, on May 29, 2014, Japan and the DPRK held a meeting in Stockholm to discuss the abductions issue. In the meeting, the DPRK promised to conduct investigations into Japanese abductees and missing persons, and Japan agreed to lift part of its autonomous sanctions against the DPRK when the latter started the investigations [12]. Based on the agreement, Japan lifted part of its autonomous sanctions on July 4, 2014.

Although this relaxation of Japanese autonomous sanctions didn’t have any significant positive impact on the DPRK’s economy, it had a significant impact on Koreans in Japan who supported the DPRK. Specifically, the Japanese government implemented the following measures: the relaxation of restrictions on movement of persons (The Japanese government lifted the ban in principle on entry of all DPRK nationals, the re-entry of North Korean authority officials residing in Japan in case they travel to North Korea, and the request to all Japanese nationals not to visit the DPRK, etc.), the relaxation of financial restrictions (The Japanese government raised the maximum amount of money that one can bring from Japan to the DPRK without official permission from 100,000 yen to one million yen, and also raised the maximum amount of money that one can pay to a person whose address is in the DPRK without official permission from three million yen to 30 million yen) and the relaxation of restrictions on transport (The Japanese government would allow entry of North Korean vessels if they come for humanitarian purposes) [13]. However, the embargo on import and export against the DPRK, as well as the ban on the entry of all vessels registered as North Korean (except for humanitarian purposes), remained unchanged.

Despite the fact that Japan imposed autonomous sanctions due to the DPRK’s nuclear and missile development, it relaxed those sanctions for reasons related to the progress in the Japan-DPRK talks on abduction issues. As described above, this indicates that, for the Japanese government, the sanctions against the DPRK are an expression of Japan’s overall hostility toward the DPRK regime and there are no clear differences among nuclear, missile and abduction issues.
(3) Re-strengthening of Sanctions (January 2016 - Present)
With no progress made on resolution of the abduction issues through the agreement in Stockholm, on January 6, 2016, one and a half year after the agreement, the DPRK conducted its forth nuclear test, and on February 7, it launched missiles. In response, Japan under the Abe administration announced that, “The government of Japan has seriously looked into what concrete measures should be taken from the viewpoint of taking the most effective approach toward the comprehensive resolution of outstanding issues of concern, such as the abductions, nuclear, and missile issues, and the government of Japan has now decided to take the following measures of its own against North Korea,” [14] and imposed a set of autonomous sanctions against the DPRK ahead of the adoption of Resolution 2270 (2016) by the Security Council.

New autonomous sanctions were basically the re-imposition of the same sanctions Japan had lifted based on the Stockholm agreement. Other than those re-imposed sanctions, Japan added the ban on the re-entry of foreign experts on nuclear and missile technology residing in Japan if they travel to North Korea; Japan designated third-country flag vessels which had previously called at ports in the DPRK as subjects of ban on the entry to Japan; and, Japan added one entity and ten individuals to the list of asset freeze targets [15].

Following the fourth DPRK nuclear test, the Security Council began expanding the scope of its sanctions against the DPRK. In addition to sanctions targeting DPRK leadership and its military activities (The banishment of North Korean diplomats who violate laws from that country, the ban in principle on exports of all arms and related materials to the DPRK, and the ban on exports of aviation gasoline to the DPRK), Security Council resolution 2270 (2016) included the sanctions intended to damage the DPRK's economy (For instance, the ban on imports of gold, titanium ore, vanadium ore, and rare earth minerals from the DPRK, the restrictions on imports of coal, steel, and iron ore from the DPRK, the inspection of all cargo shipped to and from the DPRK, and other financial restrictions) [16]. 

It was the first time that the UN imposed sanctions that could have significant harmful effects on the livelihood of ordinary people. As Japan had already enacted those kinds of sanctions since 2006 and it had banned all trade with the DPRK, in 2009, Japan had no additional measures left to tighten sanctions on trade. 

On September 9, 2016, the DPRK conducted its fifth nuclear test. In response, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2321 (2016) which requested member states to impose sanctions mainly aimed at damaging the DPRK’s economy (For instance, the ban on imports of copper, nickel, zinc and silver from the DPRK, setting a cap on the amount of export of coal produced in the DPRK, the de-registration of any vessels that are owned, controlled or operated by the DPRK, and the limitation on the number of bank accounts held by DPRK diplomatic missions). As there were no sanction measures on trade left for Japan, Japan imposed other new autonomous sanctions. For instance, Japan tightened the restrictions on movement of persons (It expanded the category of people who are prohibited to re-enter Japan if they travel to North Korea), the restrictions on transport (It banned the entry of all vessels which had previously called at ports in the DPRK), and financial restrictions (It added six entities and nine individuals to the list of asset freeze targets). These sanctions are Japanese autonomous sanctions which exceeded the sanctions adopted by the Security Council.

When the DPRK conducted its sixth nuclear test on September 3 2017, and launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on November 30, the Security Council adopted resolution 2397 (2017) which is said to be the toughest ever imposed by the Security Council. What Japan was able to do at that time was to expand entities and individuals subject to asset-freezing and vessels subject to ban on entry. On December 15, 2017, Japan added 19 entities whose headquarters were located in North Korea to the list of asset freeze targets. These were Japan’s last autonomous sanctions against the DPRK to date [17].

Typical Examples of Japan’s Autonomous Sanctions
As mentioned above, typical examples of Japan’s autonomous sanctions currently imposed on the DPRK that exceed UN sanctions are as follows:

- North Korean residents in Japan who are regarded as DPRK officials and the like are banned from re-entering Japan if they travel to the DPRK. And, in principle, North Korean nationals are banned from entering Japan.

- Imports of all goods from the DPRK are prohibited except for those for humanitarian purposes. For instance, North Korean special products which are popular in Japan and not subject to UN sanctions, such as matsutake mushrooms, some electronic components and power cables, are prohibited from being imported from North Korea.

- Exports of all goods to the DPRK, including civilian-use trucks, buses, refrigerators, air conditioners and other goods, which are not subject to UN sanctions, are prohibited except for those for humanitarian purposes.

- Even when one’s visit to the DPRK is allowed, one cannot bring more than 100,000 yen to the DPRK without official permission. 

- All the remittance to the DPRK are prohibited. For instance, North Koreans in Japan are unable to send money to their relatives and friends in the DPRK. This is not prohibited by the UN sanctions.

- The UN bans port calls of particular 59 vessels while Japan bans port calls of not only all North Korean vessels but also all vessels that have called at ports in the DPRK, including those for humanitarian purposes.

Those measures must be causing significant harm on the North Korean economy and the livelihood of North Koreans residing in Japan. Lifting those sanctions would not violate UN Security Council resolutions. Japan therefore can lift those sanctions based on solely its own decision.

The First Step Which Signals Japan’s Departure from its Hostile Policy
As described above, Japan has continued to impose relentless autonomous sanctions against the DPRK ahead of UN sanctions. However, nobody can deny that the Japanese autonomous sanctions have failed to produce desired outcomes in resolving the abduction, nuclear and missile issues.

Fortunately, dialogues between South and North Korea as well as between US and the DPRK started in 2018. Although the dialogues have been stalled for now, the door for future dialogues remains open. The DPRK has been calling for the US to abandon its hostile policy against the DPRK and rebuild trust in each other through the implementation of the Singapore agreement in a reciprocal and step-by-step manner.

As well, the Japanese government should review its sanctions-oriented hostile policy against the DPRK and shift to an approach of confidence-building through dialogues and interactions. To that end, the Japanese government should consider relaxing its autonomous sanctions first by providing humanitarian aid to alleviate the difficulties caused by COVID-19 and the natural disasters that the DPRK faces. The resumption of exchange of persons and goods after relaxing the autonomous sanctions must be the first step in a long-term process. This would be a first signal to demonstrate to the DPRK Japan’s departure from its hostile policy. For instance, Japan’s voluntary lifting of sanctions which were previously lifted on July 14, 2014 would be one of the options. This measure would not violate UN Security Council resolutions. In addition, as Japan has lifted those sanctions once before, there is a potential advantage in that many countries may show understanding of the Japanese position. They will see continuity rather than conflict with the past in Japan’s policy shift toward relaxing the autonomous sanctions. It is also recommended that the government of Japan relax the sanctions after explaining its intention to the United States, the European Union, and Republic of Korea. The advent of a new administration in Japan must be an opportunity for such a policy change. (Yosuke WATANBE & Hiromichi UMEBAYASHI) 

[1] Koh Young-ki, “In-Depth Study: Looking back the issues of abductions of Japanese,” July 15, 2014 
[2] Center for Information on Security Trade Control (CISTEC), “Recent economic sanctions measures,” last updated on April 19, 2019, 
Also, Kenichi Mizuno, “New Edition: What is economic sanctions bill (Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law)?” June 14, 2003
[3] This classification was made in reference to Takuhei Yamada, “Japanese autonomous measures on North Korea,” Ryukoku Law Review Vol.51 the third issue, (February 2019), pp.1541-1626 (in Japanese)
[4] Special Research Office of the Research Bureau of the House of Representatives, Reference materials on North Korean abductions issue and others, 2020, p.198 (in Japanese)
[5] Special Research Office of the Research Bureau of the House of Representatives, Basic information on North Korean abductions issue and others, 2018, p.94 (in Japanese)
[6] See note [4], p.203
[7] See note [5], p.93, p.100
[8] See note [4], p.213
[9] See note [5], p.94, p.101
[10] On May 28, 2010, as its autonomous sanctions, Japan lowered the maximum amount of money that one can bring from Japan to the DPRK without official permission from 300,000 yen to 100,000 yen. It also lowered the maximum amount of money that one can pay to a person whose address is in the DPRK without official permission from ten million yen to three million yen. The UN Security Council didn’t adopt new sanction resolutions in response to the sinking incident of the ROK Navy corvette Cheonan. See note [4], p.218
[11] On February 12, 2013, as its autonomous sanctions, Japan expanded subjects of ban on the re-entry to those who are in the position to assist DPRK authority officials residing in Japan if they travel to the DPRK. On the other hand, on March 7, UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2094 (2013) which added two entities and three individuals to the list of asset freeze targets. After that, Japan designated ten more entities and six more individuals to the list of asset freeze targets, which was the additional measure beyond UN sanctions (April 5 and August 30). See note [5], p.94, pp.101-102
[12] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Japan-North Korea Intergovernmental Consultations (overview), the Agreement,” May 29, 2014 (in Japanese)
[13] See note [4], p.228
[14] See note [4], p.231
[15] See note [4], pp.231-233
[16] See note [5], pp.93-99
[17] See note [5], pp.92-94, p.102, and the 2020 version of note [5], pp.108-109


Oct 15, 2020

Watch Report No.25

 Watch Report No.25   September 8, 2020

§It’s Time for the Japanese Government to Take Advantage of the Wide-Spread Japanese Civil Society Support for a Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone rather than the Pursuit of a Preemptive Attack Capability against Enemy Bases
On June 24th, 2020, the Japanese Government decided at the National Security Council (NSC) to abandon plans to deploy the ground-based interception system “Aegis Ashore” in both Yamaguchi and Akita prefectures. In response to this decision, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has begun heated debates, discussing possible alternatives to the Aegis Ashore system and “seeking to attain the military capability for a preemptive attack against foreign bases.”

On August 4th, the LDP’s Policy Research Council compiled Proposals for Improving Deterrence to Protect the People, [1] and submitted them to then Prime Minister Abe. The recommendation was that in order to protect against ballistic missile attacks, “new measures must be taken to improve deterrence,” including “the possession of abilities to block such missile attacks even within the enemy’s territory.” Although not explicitly written, it is implied that the ability to directly attack enemy bases should be considered.

However, this isn’t the first time such discussions have happened. In March 2017, the LDP’s same Policy Research Council stated in its Proposals for the Rapid and Drastic Strengthening of Ballistic Missile Defense [2], “Now that the threat of North Korea has entered a new stage …, the government should immediately start considering the ability to counterattack enemy bases, including by cruise missiles.” Later, the Medium-Term Defense Program, a formal agenda which was formulated with the 2018 Defense Program Guidelines, included the introduction of “stand-off missiles” that could respond to threats from outside the reach of other parties. Specifically, it was envisioned that JSM, LRASM, and JASSM stand-off missiles [3] would be mounted on F-15 and F-35A fighter planes. Fighters equipped with these missiles were to have the capability to attack enemy bases. The procurement of such missiles began in 2019. However, the 2018 Defense Program Guidelines, which describe the proposed use of stand-off missiles, do not mention enemy base attacks. Instead, they describe their usage against ships and landing parties attempting to invade Japanese islands.

On the other hand, the LDP’s proposal this time is trying to make it clear that missile facilities on enemy territorial ground can be targeted. Although the proposal emphasizes the attack will be done “within the scope of the peace Constitution, international law, and the concept of exclusive defense,” the true intent seems poised to break down the long-standing Constitutional framework of exclusively defensive defense, not only in terms of weapons systems, but also policies, doctrines, and operations. Following the August proposal, the government plans to revise its national security strategy by the end of the year – including new plans to strengthen its missile defense systems.

These recent moves by the LDP and Japanese Government were due to North Korea's repeated missile and nuclear tests from 2016 to 2017. The 2017 LDP proposal stated that "North Korea's nuclear tests and missile launches are a serious threat, and Japan cannot overlook such provocations, including 23 ballistic missile test launches and two nuclear tests last year.” On that basis, it stated, the following three points were requested to be considered as countermeasures.
1. Introducing new assets to strengthen ballistic missile defense capabilities
2. Acquiring Japan’s own capabilities to counterattack enemy bases
3. More adequately dealing with ballistic missiles launched into the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Needless to say, the central pillar of the first request revolved around strengthening of the missile defense system via Aegis Ashore. Therefore, as long as plans to set up Aegis Ashore systems have been abandoned, it is almost inevitable that the second request, “acquisition of capabilities to counterattack enemy bases”, will be pursued as an alternative. It cannot be denied that this proposed strengthening of military power has China in mind. In fact, the proposal explicitly mentions China when discussing the changes in the balance of power and the uncertainty of the existing order that lead to the creation of the proposal in the first place.

What is categorically lacking in the LDP’s proposal is any perspective on the significant change in the international situation on the Korean Peninsula since 2018. An historic movement has begun to attain a nuclear-free and peaceful Korean Peninsula through negotiations based upon agreements at summits between North and South Korea, as well as between US and North Korea. Unfortunately, as we see a deadlock in such negotiations at this point in time, fresh political leadership is vitally needed to break the impasse and create momentum to advance the negotiations. Any proposal to the Government of Japan regarding the regional security at this moment should embrace the question as to what Japan can contribute to break the current impasse.

Given this critical situation, Japan's pursuit of capabilities to attack enemy bases amounts to nothing but a policy to further move Japan away from the confidence-building process that began in 2018. Moreover, it will make the opportunity for dialogue between Japan and North Korea even more difficult. What is needed instead at this historic moment is to communicate an attitude of cooperation – joining the denuclearization and peace movement on the Korean Peninsula – by harnessing the peaceful philosophies that have taken root in postwar Japan, such as the three non-nuclear principles and the policy of exclusively defensive defense.

With that specifically in mind, the Japanese government should instead pivot their policy proposals towards the realistic idea of creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) throughout Northeast Asia (NEA) as a first step for regional cooperative security.

While regional governments have been reluctant to propose and follow through with such ideas after the end of the Cold War, many researchers and NGOs have proposed various potential policy ideas for a NEA-NWFZ [4]. As a recent example, there is an active initiative from the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (RECNA), Nagasaki University [5]. Additionally, there is a widely known and easy-to-understand NEA-NWFZ scheme based upon so called “Three Plus Three” concept proposed by Hiromichi Umebayashi, whereby Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea), and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) form a nuclear-weapon-free zone, while surrounding three nuclear-weapon states, the US, China, and Russia, provide negative security assurances to the zone[6]. As discussed below, widespread public opinion has been cultivated in Japanese civil society in support of the establishment of such a NEA-NWFZ.

Perhaps the first public introduction of a concept of a NEA-NWFZ with a specific geographic scheme, rather than a broad general concept, appeared in a Japanese newspaper article in the Asahi Shimbun (June, 1995) that reported on the research of the Endicott Group [7]. An expert group led by Professor John Endicott of Georgia Institute of Technology introduced circular and elliptical geographic scenarios for a NEA-NWFZ covering Korean Peninsula and Japan Archipelago. Since then, Japanese media outlets have frequently and consistently published articles and editorials urging the creation of a NEA-NWFZ. These articles included works such as Umebayashi's "Three Plus Three" proposal as well as another circular zone proposal by Kumao Kaneko, the first chief of the Nuclear Energy Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan. It is no exaggeration to say that most nation-wide daily newspapers and major local newspapers in Japan have published large-scale, in-depth articles on the subject.

Not only articles, but also public events, have been organized by news companies. For example, the Asahi Shimbun hosted an international symposium entitled, "Aiming for a World without Nuclear Weapons – Japan's Role in Northeast Asia," which tried to evoke political debates on the denuclearization of Northeast Asia. One contributor was Koichi Kato, former secretary-general of the then ruling LDP, who said, "Japan has a great influence on Asian politics, so we should absolutely stop trying to attain nuclear capabilities. Instead, we will consider a way to a non-nuclear scheme for Northeast Asia that will allow us to leave the nuclear umbrella.” Katsuya Okada, who at the time was the representative of the Democratic Party of Japan, advocated the idea of a NEA-NWFZ, saying that it was entirely possible for Japan, South Korea, and North Korea to create a NWFZ – with the United States and others promising no first-use of nuclear weapons to the zone.

Even when the situation on the Korean Peninsula improved after 2018, the media's dedicated interest continued. On August 23, 2018, the Asahi Shimbun said in its editorial, "Now that measures to change the confrontational structure of the Korean Peninsula are being discussed, it makes sense to set the goal of the denuclearization of Northeast Asia." The editorial proclaimed:
"The Panmunjom Declaration by the leaders of North and South Korea in April confirmed the ‘common goal of realizing a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.’ A joint statement by US and North Korean leaders in June reaffirmed this. If Japan with its ‘Three Non-Nuclear Principles’, joins the ‘denuclearized Korean Peninsula’, the time for a nuclear-free zone in Northeast Asia will finally come. … Given the potential for changes in the order of Northeast Asia, it is time for Japan to take the initiative in creating a nuclear-free zone."

Complementing and reaffirming this position by the media, there are widespread and persistent voices in Japan's local governments that support the establishment of a NEA-NWFZ.

Headed by the Mayor of Nagasaki, the National Council of Japan Nuclear Free Local Authorities (hereafter referred to as the Nuclear Free Local Authorities) [8], embracing roughly 300 active local governments, officially started a campaign to support the establishment of a NEA-NWFZ in 2009. In the campaign, the Council published and distributed an 8-page pamphlet entitled, “Toward the Creation of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Northeast Asia," hoping to enlighten local government officials and citizens. Under such circumstances, as many as 546 heads of local authorities signed to endorse the “Statement to Support the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Northeast Asia" (as of the end of 2016), in a signature campaign driven by civic groups, including Peace Depot, in cooperation with Nuclear Free Local Authorities and Mayors for Peace.

The Peace Declarations by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, issued on August 6th and 9th each year, have often urged the Government of Japan to consider establishing a NEA-NWFZ. In particular, Mayor of Nagasaki appealed in his 2018 Peace Declaration as a response to the beginning of the historic US-North Korean dialogues as follows:
"We in the atomic-bombed cities watch this development attentively and have great expectations that persistent diplomatic efforts, as initiated with the Panmunjom Declaration by the leaders of North and South Korea and the first ever United States-North Korea Summit, will lead to the realization of irreversible denuclearization. I hope that the Japanese government will make use of this great opportunity to work towards the realization of a Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon- Free Zone that would see Japan and the entire Korean Peninsula denuclearized.”

The editorial of the Asahi Shimbun cited earlier was written in response to this statement.

The wide-spread support from religious communities in Japan should also be mentioned. Four religious leaders, two Christians and two Buddhists, issued the following statement in February 2016: “People of Faith in Japan Call for Japan to Stop Relying on the U.S. Nuclear Umbrella and to Move toward the Establishment of a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone” [9]. While calling for support amongst Japan’s religious communities, they visited the Foreign Ministry to represent their policy requests.

It has often been pointed out that a serious drawback of Japan's democracy is that such growing and sustained interest within civil society rarely translates into policy outcomes by the Japanese government. However, it should be confirmed that at least Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs' policy review process has changed its attitude in its consideration of the idea of a NEA-NWFZ.

Since 2002, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published a kind of diplomatic ‘white paper’ every few years called, "Japan's Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Diplomacy." Up until its 4th edition (2008), it did not devote even one word about a NEA-NWFZ, although it mentioned existing nuclear-weapon-free zones elsewhere in the world. It was the 5th edition (2011) that finally mentioned a NEA-NWFZ for the first time, albeit only as the following negative and brief description:
“With regard to the plan to create a Northeast Asia nuclear-weapon-free zone that includes Japan, the Japanese government holds the view that efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue must first be undertaken in order to ensure Japan’s security and improve the security environment of Northeast Asia“ [10].
In the 6th edition (2013), the White Paper provided a more substantial response towards a NEA-NWFZ, stating:
“(E)specially in recent years, the idea of a ‘Three Plus Three’ arrangement, in which Japan, the ROK and DPRK form a non-nuclear zone while the U.S., China and Russia provides security assurances, attracts a certain degree of attention” [11].
Despite this change in its way of portraying the issue, the government’s position remained firm in that the denuclearization of the DPRK had to be achieved before any efforts to create a NWFZ could start. The latest 7th (2016) remains largely unchanged on the issue [12].

In this way, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken a negative attitude toward a NEA-NWFZ initiative, saying that "the realistic environment for realization is not yet in place." However, in 2018, that ‘environment’ changed significantly. There is now new opportunity for the Japanese government to play a significant role in transforming the security environment for the better.

It would be a big political mistake for the Government of Japan to adopt a policy towards the "possession of enemy-base attack capability" at this time. Especially, as mentioned at the beginning, this policy direction emerged and has been discussed as a counter-measures towards North Korea's nuclear and missile development. With the US-North Korea negotiations having stalled, it may be argued that since the DPRK’s short-range missile tests have been repeated since May 2019, that the threat situation for Japan has not changed. However, if the dialogues among the US, North Korea and South Korea resume, such argument will not hold because it is senseless to say only threats to Japan remain unchanged. In fact, the more viable way to reduce the missile-threat towards Japan is that Japan examines and implements the ways in which to contribute to reopening the stalled dialogue among concerned states. Such efforts made by Japan will open up new channels and opportunities towards the resolution of the many other issues that exist between Japan and North Korea, such as the abduction and colonial-period-compensation issues.

With this point of view in mind, the above-mentioned 2018 Nagasaki City Peace Declaration and the related editorial in the Asahi Shimbun should be heeded. The Government of Japan should make best use of the widely growing public opinion in support of a NEA-NWFZ and work to break the current deadlock.
(Ichiro YUASA & Hiromichi UMEBAYASHI)

[1] Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council “Proposals for Improving Deterrence to Protect the People,” (in Japanese) August 4, 2020. 
[2] Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council, “Proposals for the Rapid and Drastic Strengthening of Ballistic Missile Defense,” (in Japanese) March 3, 2017. 
[3] JSM=Joint Strike Missile; JASSM=Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile; LRASM=Long Range Anti-Ship Missile
[4] Box 3 “Proposals on a NEA-NWFZ, included in “Proposal: Comprehensive Approach toward Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone,” by the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition Nagasaki University, 2015.
[5] Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition Nagasaki University, “Comprehensive Approach to a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone”
[6] Hiromichi UMEBAYASHI, “A Northeast Asia NWFZ: A Realistic and Attainable Goal”, INESAP (International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation) Conference, Gothenburg, Sweden, May 30 - June 2, 1996. For more comprehensive commentary on a NEA-NWFZ, Hiromichi UMEBAYASHI, “Nuclear Weapon Free Zone,” (in Japanese) Iwanami-shoten, 2011. 
[7] The Asahi Shimbun, (in Japanese) June 13, 1995.
[8] National Council of Japan Nuclear Free Local Authorities was established by nuclear free local authorities for cooperation among local authorities in 1984.
[9] The representatives include Rev. Kouichi KOBASHI (Moderator, National Christian Council Japan in 2016), Rev. Kijun SUGITANI (ex-Administrative Director of Tendai Buddhism Headquarters; Chair, Religions for Peace International Standing Committee on Disarmament and Security), The Most Rev. Archbishop Mitsuaki TAKAMI (Catholic Archdiocese of Nagasaki), Rev. Ryumyo YAMAZAKI (Jodo Shinshu Honganji-ha Buddhism). All titles are those at that time.
[10] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Japan’s Diplomacy for Disarmament and Nonproliferation” vol. 5 (in Japanese), 2011, March, p.71. 
[11] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Japan’s Diplomacy for Disarmament and Nonproliferation” vol. 6 (in Japanese), 2013, March, p.42. 
[12] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Japan’s Diplomacy for Disarmament and Nonproliferation” vol. 7 (in Japanese), 2016, March, p.59. 


Watch Report No.27

Watch Report No.27       November 30, 2020 § Mobilize Voices of Civil Society to Move Politically Entangled and Reluctant Governments to End...