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Japan Leverages Abduction Problem for Greater Influence over North Korea Issue

Japanese President Shinzo Abe is believed to be using his former success with releasing hostages to stay involved in the North Korea issue

By Han Bingbin Updated Jun.12

North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens have afforded Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the leverage to achieve both political and diplomatic agendas, according to Yan Shenchun, a staff commentator for news portal The Paper.   
Abe sees solving the abduction situation, a huge public concern, as an opportunity to win public support amid political scandals, Yan said. Rising to political stardom after he played a successful part in saving hostages from North Korea more than a decade ago, Abe is believed to have a strong personal complex surrounding the hostage problem.    

In 2002, Abe was part of a team led by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to sign the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration that saw five Japanese hostages released later that year.  Abe established himself through the event as a strong leader who cared about the people while being able to act tough when needed, Yan said.   

On a diplomatic level, the problem of the abductions offers Abe a chance to stay involved in the North Korea issue. Japan has seen itself increasingly marginalized in the issue, which makes it all the more necessary for Abe to show that the Japanese government is still able to act effectively upon the North Korea issue, said the scholar.