Korea Must View Japan More Objectively

      July 03, 2013 14:33

      Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se met his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Brunei on Monday. It was the first meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries since the inauguration of President Park Geun-hye in February. But it yielded no agreements and ended earlier than scheduled.

      Park has met the leaders of the U.S. and China since stepping into office, breaking with the tradition seeing the heads of the U.S., Japan and China in that order.

      In a joint statement, Park and Chinese President Xi Jinping voiced concern over "worsening confrontation and mistrust" in Northeast Asia over distortions of history, hinting at Japan's attempts to whitewash its World War II atrocities. The government here says it has no plans for a summit with Japan in the near future, and neither does China, which is clashing with Tokyo over ownership of the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands.

      Japanese media have reacted sensitively, saying that South Korea and China may be seeking to isolate Tokyo and foment anti-Japanese policies.

      Tokyo has only itself and its lurch to the far right to blame. However, Seoul needs to take an objective look at Japan taking into account the entire political, economic and military situation in Northeast Asia.Right now, the region is mired in a double dilemma of Japan fearing the growing might of China and China afraid of potential moves to free Japan's military from postwar restrictions into massive re-armament, while the U.S. and China compete over hegemony.

      Many foreign experts sense that that is the reason that the Abe administration is acting irrationally despite mounting global criticism of its attempts to whitewash its wartime atrocities and China is putting more weight on relations with South Korea.

      In these circumstances, Seoul should not fixate on short-term national interests but focus on the long-term goal of establishing a solid framework of peace and stability in Northeast Asia, and on using that framework as a stepping stone toward Korean reunification.

      In order to create a regional framework for peace and stability, Japan must gain the trust of its regional neighbors by abandoning its efforts to revise its pacifist constitution and re-arm the country.

      China, too, must gain the trust of its neighbors by abiding by international rules in a manner befitting its global stature. Beijing can no longer treat its smaller regional neighbors as virtual vassal states when it comes to trade disputes or territorial boundaries. There is no telling when China's exceptional military and political bond with North Korea may come to an end.

      Japan remains Washington's top ally in Asia. It cannot be excluded from any multinational efforts to contain North Korea. If North Korea attacks South Korea, the U.S. military must use bases in Japan to come to the rescue.

      Moreover, Japan is the world's third-largest economy and has some 70 percent of the world's cutting-edge technology. It would not be a wise move for South Korea to completely shift its focus toward China.

      The Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun reported that Japan may be at a "crossroads" in the history of Northeast Asia. That is an accurate description. If Tokyo persists in denying its past wrongdoings and takes the path of re-armament, it will end up becoming completely isolated and force South Korea to make some tough decisions that will raise tensions in the region.

      If Japan continues to challenge South Korea's sovereign territory despite its past history of occupying the Korean Peninsula, it would only be seen as a virtual severing of normal diplomatic relations. South Korea should admittedly be more objective in approaching Japan, but Japan too must grow wiser in its dealings with its neighbors. This applies not only to the leaders of the two countries but to their people as well.

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