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Roh asks Japan to match deeds to words

Mar 01,2006

President Roh Moo-hyun and his wife Kwon Yang-sook, at Independence Movement Day celebrations yesterday at the Sejong Center for the Peforming Arts. [NEWSIS]

President Roh Moo-hyun reiterated his harsh words about Japan in a speech yesterday commemorating a 1919 uprising here against the Japanese colonial government.
“If Japan aims to be a ‘normal state,’ or a ‘leading state’ or a ‘leading country in the world,’” Mr. Roh said, “it must act in conformity with human conscience and principles to gain the confidence of the world.” Apparently targeting Japan’s plans to revise its constitution to give more latitude to its military, the Self-Defense Forces, Mr. Roh added, “It must not pursue revisions of the law and military expansion.”
In his speech, Mr. Roh focused on the controversial visits to a war shrine by Japanese political leaders, its alleged “distortions” of history in some textbooks used there and its territorial claims on some island specks in the sea between the two neighbors. He complained that Japanese leaders were making excuses; for example, he sneered at contentions by the Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, that his visits to the shrine were private, not official.
Mr. Roh said yesterday, “They say that the shrine visits are to harden the resolution to avoid war and are private, thus no matters for other countries to meddle in. But the meaning of a national leader’s words and actions are evaluated by the objective character of the actions, not by the person’s explanation.” He added that the “universal human conscience and the experience of the past” are the guides to judging Japan’s actions.
He demanded action, not words, from Japan in regard to its colonial and imperial past. “Japan has already apologized. We do not urge Japan to repeat the apology,” Mr. Roh continued, “What we demand is practices that correspond to the apologies. We oppose actions that overturn the apologies.”
He cited Germany as a fitting model for Japan.
He said he thought most ordinary Japanese would agree. “We will continue persuading and demanding, believing in the sound judgement and noble aspirations of the Japanese nation.”
Mr. Koizumi reacted swiftly to Mr. Roh’s accusations. “Please look at the 60-year postwar history of Japan, and continue to make efforts for the Japan-Korea friendship,” he said. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, echoed those remarks. “I hope President Roh Moo-hyun will face up to Japan’s efforts to keep freedom, democracy, human rights and world peace alive.” Mr. Abe, a conservative, is seen as a strong contender to succeed Mr. Koizumi in office this fall.


by Chun Su-jin


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