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Japan Should Meet Prerequisites for Future Interests to Share
Role of the Leader
Japan Should Meet Prerequisites for Future Interests to Share
  • By Jack H. Park
  • April 10, 2015, 08:00
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Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leave U.S. President Barack Obama from opposite sides of the table after a photo opportunity at a nuclear summit at The Hague on March 25.
Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leave U.S. President Barack Obama from opposite sides of the table after a photo opportunity at a nuclear summit at The Hague on March 25.

 

According to the Future Research Center, 61 percent of Americans consider Japan’s apology for its wartime atrocities enough, and 68 percent of Americans and 75 percent of Japanese have trust in each other.

The survey result shows that U.S.-Japanese relations are more amicable than ever amid the emergence of China and the Barack Obama administration’s Pivot to Asia policy. The pursuit of national interests have priority over the past attack on Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

These days, Washington is looking to allow Tokyo to redefine the role of the Japanese Self Defense Force and apply military power more flexibly than before in a bid to keep China in check. This is likely to buttress Japan’s efforts regarding the territorial disputes surrounding the Senkaku (or Diaoyudao) Islands.

For South Korea, the territorial dispute is not somebody else’s business. These days, Japan is once again fueling the conflict by defining the Dokdo Islet as its territory in almost all middle school textbooks in the country, igniting the emotions of Korean people and cooling the relationship between the two countries. Under the circumstances, the effective cooperation among Korea, the United States, and Japan cannot be achieved, although Washington is pursuing that for the balance of power in Northeast Asia based on better Korea-Japan relations. In that light, the United States must clarify its position on this issue, as the leading power of the Treaty of San Francisco.

The recent remarks of high-ranking American government officials that seem to side with Japan concerning historical issues can be of no help at all in promoting consistent peace and security in Northeast Asia. The feud in the region is sure to be fueled if Washington shares military expenditures with Tokyo by strengthening economic cooperation, without driving Japan to deliver a heartfelt apology to its neighboring countries. Thomas Schieffer, former U.S. ambassador to Japan, recently said that NATO had accepted Germany, despite strong opposition from the Netherlands, and today’s Germany is fulfilling a central role in the organization, adding that he was looking forward to a day when Korea and Japan become true friends.

His remarks lack the understanding of the reality of Japan’s continuing provocations. How it could be possible in the situation that Japan has never shown a sincere apology about their past activities or taken corrective actions like Germany. Furthermore, Japanese Prime Minister Abe is now provoking South Korea once again just before his visit to Washington by describing the Dokdo Islet belonging to Japan in its Green Paper of diplomacy following the middle school textbooks, which will definitely keep the dispute alive between the next generations of the two countries. Under the circumstances, could Korea and Japan be true friends now and in the future? This is impossible as long as Japan maintains its current attitudes.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter mentioned that the future interests of Korea, Japan, and his country matter more than the past during his visit to Japan on April 8. If the remark is to be meaningful, Japan must stop its provocations first. Otherwise, Washington’s efforts to keep the balance of power in Northeast Asia based on the strong relationship among Korea, the U.S., and Japan cannot but be vulnerable and difficult in producing real fruit.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is about to visit the U.S. Korea is keeping a watch on the stances of the U.S. government and Congress. Washington will be able to gain respect as a true global leader only when it fulfills its role as a mediator and balancer for world stability and peace.