While not altogether shocking, the visit of one of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s top aides to North Korea last month drew strong criticism from Seoul and raised eyebrows in other capitals, including Washington and Beijing. While the Japanese government has remained coy about the outcomes of the trip, it is clear that the mission’s primary focus was on Abe’s pledge for a permanent resolution to the abduction issue. Abe’s envoy, Isao Iijima, has a history with Pyongyang and was instrumental in facilitating the return of five Japanese abductees during former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s landmark visit to North Korea in 2002.