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PacNet #36 – Kabuki – Texas Style? Koizumi and Kim Jong-il

Japan’s Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro’s impending trip to North Korea on Sept. 17 appears to be a positive development in reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. In line with the Bush administration’s desire for a beefed up alliance with Tokyo, Koizumi’s surprise announcement also reflects positively on Japan’s attempts to play a leadership role in the region. Koizumi appears to be taking on the thorny problem of North Korea at a time when the fate of South Korean President Kim Dae-jung’s Sunshine Policy remains uncertain at the end of his presidency. Moreover, U.S. ambivalence about engaging North Korea remains palpable enough that a probe of this sort by a trusted ally may yield the transparency needed for Washington to make the decision to pursue engagement in earnest.