Why did North Korea release a detained Japanese tourist so quickly?
North Korea expels detained Japanese tourist as neighbors’ hot-and-cold relationship continues
North Korea has expelled a Japanese man detained for allegedly breaking the law during a recent tour of the country, state-run media and a diplomatic source in Japan said as the two neighbors continue their hot-and-cold relationship.
In a terse two-line statement released late Sunday, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Japanese national Tomoyuki Sugimoto was freed on humanitarian grounds after he was detained for breaking an unspecified law while visiting the country. … Sugimoto, who media reports said is believed to be a 39-year-old videographer from Shiga Prefecture, was detained on suspicion of shooting video footage of a military facility when he visited the western port city of Nampo with a tour group, reports citing Japanese government officials said earlier this month. (from the Japan Times)
When North Korea detains foreign nationals, they usually detain them for a long period of time, usually longer than a month. For example, the three American prisoners who were released this May were jailed for more than a year. (Here is a list of foreign nationals who have been detained in North Korea)
North Korea often uses hostages as political bargaining chips. For instance, when Takashi Sugishima, an economic researcher, was freed in 2002 after about two years of detainment, the media reported that the ransom money was \20 million. To lower tensions with the US, three American hostages were released about a month before the first North Korea-United States summit was held.
That is why I was surprised and suspicious when I heard the news of Sugimoto’s release because he was detained for only 18 days (8/11 – 8/29).
Why was it so short?
And what was North Korea’s intention?
According to some journalists in Japan, such as Yukihiro Hasegawa and Yoichi Takahashi, North Korea released Sugimoto because they are seeking Japan’s support for negotiation with the US. Since President Trump claims that the denuclearization process of North Korea has not progressed as agreed upon at the summit, he canceled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang last Friday to show that they were not happy about it.
China, a country recently having a trade war with the US, is North Korea’s largest trading partner and its most important patron, and hence it has a strong influence on North Korea. What else could be the reason that Kim Jong Un revisited China only a week after he met President Trump? North Korea has been acting like China’s puppet, doing whatever China tells them to do, so they are looking for some help from other countries that have a good relationship with the US. Which country would that be? Yes. Japan.
I think the major reason why North Korea released Sugimoto was because they wanted Japanese Prime Minister Shizo Abe to tell President Trump that they are doing their best to reach nuclear disarmament.
Apparently, President Trump knows this, but the tension between the US and North Korea has not changed much.
I wonder what North Korea’s next move will be.