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Has the cowboy changed horses in midstream?

Apparently it is a positive sign that the U.S. President on April 28 listened intently and compassionately to Sakie Yokota, mother of one of the abductees Megumi Yokota, and her son at the Oval Office - but certainly not in the sense the Japanese media insisted it was. It is heartening only because the meeting indicated that the family members of those who were abducted by North Korean agents had finally exhausted their patience with the total inaction on the part of their government and the half-hearted lip service by the media. In a normal situation, citizens of a sovereign country would never bring in a petition about a bilateral issue directly to the leader of a third country.

Back in Tokyo, the person who still claims to be the Japanese leader told reporters, "The meeting will become a powerful [message] in terms of enabling the U.S. government and American people to develop great interest in the abduction issue." (April 30, Daily Yomiuri). Junichiro Koizumi reportedly added to it a fairly predictable statement which goes: "We should also tenaciously press North Korea to take a sincere attitude toward the issue while directing world attention to it." So the Prime Minister did not take the recent move by the family members of the abductees as an insult which was very close to no-confidence motion against him.

Of course some "sources" didn't fail to tell the press to expressly report that "two people worked behind the scenes to bring about the meeting." One of them was U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer, "who is a good friend of Bush." And the other one was Minister Plenipotentiary to the U.S. Akitaka Saiki. But does it make the Japanese government look any better?

On the part of the U.S. Administration and Congress, too, some see an encouraging sign in Bush's belated awareness of the issue. According to the Daily Yomiuri, Jay Lefkowitz, U.S. special envoy for human rights in North Korea, told the joint Asia-Pacific and human rights subcommittee hearing under the House of Representatives International Relations Committee: "I know that the president's commitment to this issue is very sincere. I know he cares deeply about the issue of Japanese abductions."

Lefkowitz added: "Until the North Korean government is accountable honestly for the whereabouts of every one of the abductees, not only from Japan but from several other countries as well, it will not have any international legitimacy." The U.S. special envoy for human rights in North Korea also expressed his intention to urge Bush to take up this issue at the upcoming G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg.

Looking at George W. Bush wearing blue badge on his suit lapel to express solidarity with the families of abductees, a Japanese pundit said he had been moved by the compassion Bush showed to the Japanese guests at the Oval Office and that it had been the first time the U.S. President looked real great to him. He is one of those "journalists" who always put down the American President at his best, and laud him at his worst.

Once again the Japanese media have failed to point out one serious problem in the supposedly touching meeting: This all pointed to the likelihood that the Bush Administration had exhausted every means to break the impasse over the nuclear issue, just like Sakie Yokota had her patience, and now been caught in a real deadlock. Otherwise it wouldn't have suddenly shifted priority to the abductions from the nuclear threat which it had rightly said by far outweighed the poorly-established case with the violation of human rights inflicted on the unknown number of Japanese citizens.

All in all, if the cowboy has now changed horses in midstream as he looks to have, "one of the most moving meetings" George W. Bush has had during his presidency is nothing but an ominous sign that something is going wrong with his East Asia policy.

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