Japan-North Korea relations have slipped into an ever deepening and divisive rut since the North-South summit of 2000, with little prospect of significant improvement in the near term. Japan has both intentionally and unintentionally constructed around itself a framework of international and domestic policy constraints that impede its ability to engage North Korea both bilaterally and trilaterally via US-South Korea-Japan co-ordination efforts. In particular, as the US and South Korea contemplate renewed engagement efforts with the North, Japan’s ability to follow its trilateral partners is hamstrung by domestic pressure on the abductions issue. The consequence could be that Japan will find itself as the most reluctant and least able of the trilateral partners to engage the North. In turn, this could mean that it is unable to provide crucial background support for international engagement efforts, and even undermine overall US and South Korea strategy. Meanwhile, the incapacitation of Japan’s diplomatic policy has had the effect of strengthening Japanese military containment efforts towards the North
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