Japan Needs Keeping in Close Check

      October 28, 2015 13:28

      Seoul says the Japanese government has not yet responded to a proposal for President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to hold a rare summit next Monday. 

      Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that he was not aware of any proposal and the two sides are "fine-tuning schedules." Summit schedules are announced jointly by both governments, and it is highly unusual for them to continue bickering six days before a proposed date.

      The government apparently insists on putting the issue of Korean women forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese troops during World War II on the agenda, and Abe, who has been busy denying that Tokyo had anything to do with the atrocity, does not want to talk about it.

      Seoul wanted him at least to make some kind of forward-looking comments on the issue if no immediate solution can be found. But Tokyo insisted that the issue was settled under a lump sum compensation when Seoul and Tokyo signed a treaty in 1965 restoring diplomatic ties.

      That prompted Park to propose a brief meeting over lunch, and Abe was apparently perturbed by this offer and is demanding greater diplomatic courtesy. That suggests he wants to present their meeting at home as some sort of diplomatic achievement without getting into any touchy subjects that could perturb his rightwing support base. 

      Abe's insistence that Korea and China leave the issue of Japan's World War II atrocities out of diplomatic dialogue is precisely why Park has so far refused to sit down with him face to face. But instead of seeing sense Abe has consistently backtracked even from the apologies of previous leaders.

      He has questioned the validity of a 1993 statement by then Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, who admitted the leading role of the Imperial Army in forcing Asian women to serve as sex slaves for soldiers. And in a statement in August marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, he expressed a vague sort of "remorse" for wartime abuses but did not utter one word of apology for the colonization of Korea. Yet somehow he still thinks himself entitled to greater diplomatic courtesy.

      His confidence stems from support from the U.S., which is more interested in shoring up its regional influence than questions of history. This is why the Japanese government has had the nerve to blame Korea for the chill in bilateral ties and harming regional security.

      Abe knows that the U.S. government needs Japan as an ally to keep China in check and believes he can push Korea around with Big Brother by his side. Now that the Park administration has proposed a bilateral summit after all, Abe seems to think that his strategy is working and has become all puffed up with triumph.

      It is completely abnormal for the leaders of Korea and Japan not to meet in almost four years. But Japan needs watching very closely if that is to change.

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