Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will ask President Moon Jae-in not to scale down joint drills with the U.S. when the two leaders meet Friday, Japanese media reported Sunday. The annual drills have been postponed until after the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Abe also wants to ask U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who will also be in Korea for the Olympics, to ensure that the joint military exercises are not scaled down.
"The matter will be discussed when U.S. Vice President Mike Pence meets with Abe in Tokyo before heading to the opening ceremony of the Olympics, and they are expected to agree on the need to conduct the drill as normal," Kyodo News reported. "Abe and Pence will convey their shared view to South Korean President Moon Jae-in when they hold talks in Pyeongchang."
Abe will also urge Moon for help in evacuating Japanese expats here in the event of an emergency.
The Japanese government plans to evacuate 60,000 Japanese citizens residing here to the southern port of Busan and then taking them back to Japan via Tsushima Island. Instead of mobilizing its own armed forces, which would not be welcome near the Korean Peninsula, Tokyo would rely on the U.S. Navy.
Tokyo's focus on military matters is already raising eyebrows. A diplomatic source in Tokyo said, "We are witnessing the Japanese government handling the Olympics not as a sports celebration but as a Japanese security issue with North Korea."
Japan's Foreign Ministry in a message on its website last Thursday urged Japanese travelers to South Korea to submit their contact numbers to the ministry in case of an emergency due to the "unpredictable political situation on the Korean Peninsula."
Abe spoke over the telephone with U.S. President Donald Trump for more than an hour last Friday. The two touched briefly on a number of accidents in Okinawa involving American military helicopters, but the bulk of the conversation revolved around the Olympics, North Korea and an agreement between South Korea and Japan over compensation for Korean wartime sex slaves.
The deeply unpopular 2015 deal indirectly compensating Korean wartime sex slaves lets Tokyo off without admitting full responsibility. Korea has admitted that the deal is legal and will not ask for a renegotiation, but a Foreign Ministry review found it "seriously flawed."
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