Posted by: Ian Rowley on October 12, 2008
With Japan playing an important role in the current financial crisis, not least Mitsubishi UFJ’s $9 billion bailout of Morgan Stanley, one might think the U.S. government would be trying hard not to upset a key ally. Yet, the Bush administration’s decision to take North Korea off the list of nations considered to be sponsors of terrorism appears to have been done with little, if any, consideration for Japan.
Predictably, the decision was met with mixture of anger and disbelief in Japan where the fate of Japanese kidnapped by North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s understandably remains an emotive issue. “I cannot help feeling empty because everything is decided somewhere beyond our reach. I feel completely helpless,” said Shigeo Iizuka, 70, who leads the group which represents the Japanese abductees’ families, reported Kyodo News. Teruaki Masumoto, another member of the group, described the U.S. move as the “betrayal” of an ally.
The manner of the announcement also leaves much to be desired. While the official line is that the move won’t affect Japanese-U.S. relations, the Asahi newspaper reported that Japan had been caught on the hop, with Prime Minister Taro Aso only alerted by Washington thirty minutes before the announcement.
Japanese state broadcaster NHK said Japan’s Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa broke off from talks about rescuing the world’s financial system to press President Bush on the matter. Bush told him to speak to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who apparently
said the removal will not have a large impact on the kidnapping issue. Nakagawa described the move as “extremely regrettable.”
The U.S government is also receiving low marks for its handling of the financial crisis. While officials haven’t publicly criticized the U.S., economists in Japan have been dismayed at the handling of the bailout, complaining that the U.S. has been slow to learn from Japan’s mistakes during its own financial meltdown a decade ago. That ensuing upheaval contributed to the 24% fall in the Nikkei 225 Index last week—its worst ever week.