[EDITORIALS]Concrete Proposals, No Promises

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[EDITORIALS]Concrete Proposals, No Promises

The Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will visit Korea on Oct. 15. Although the more contact and dialogue between the heads of states of South Korea and Japan the better the relations between the two countries, this is the first time that Mr. Koizumi is making a state visit to Korea since he was inaugurated six months ago. Japan's untrustworthy attitude toward its history had hampered a summit meeting and it is regretful that Mr. Koizumi was at the heart of the dispute.

Mr. Koizumi had expressed hopes for a Seoul visit through various channels, but the South Korean government believed that tangible and sincere steps to resolve contentious issues between the two countries had to precede the state visit. Seoul felt that distorted history textbooks and Mr. Koizumi's official visit to the Yasukuni shrine, where the Japanese war dead are honored along with war criminals, had to be resolved first.

It is questionable whether the sudden terror attacks in the United States can possibly invalidate such preconditions. The Seoul government said that it agreed to the visit request because Mr. Koizumi promised to show progress in his assessment of history between the two countries. But we cannot help but question what the progress is.

Although the Japanese spoke of acute self-reflection and responsibility for Japan's historical atrocities in the past, they did not act on their words. If Mr. Koizumi simply reiterates his pledge for a correct historical understanding, as expressed in the South Korea - Japan Partnership Joint Declaration in 1998 or the former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama's statement made in 1995, then it would be difficult to resolve the distrust that Koreans harbor toward Japan.

He should instead show progress in specific issues such as the high school history textbook evaluation next year and the official visit to the Yasukuni shrine. As the head of a state, he should keep his word. How can we possibly build trust toward Japan if its leaders speak and act differently on repeated occasions for various reasons?

Mr. Koizumi should also make clear that the adoption of a special law, which enables the dispatch of its self-defense forces in support of the U.S. forces in the war against terrorism, would not set the precedent for a future non-defensive role of the forces.
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