[EDITORIALS]Preserve relations with JapanThe local council of Japan’s Shimane prefecture has finally adopted a bill that establishes “Takeshima Day.” As was anticipated, the central Japanese government, without taking any action, watched the passage of the bill that fundamentally damages the friendship between Korea and Japan. It made the excuse that the central government couldn’t do anything because “it is a matter decided by the local government.” The Japanese government’s attitude made many people who cherish the friendship between Korea and Japan worry and get angry.
Although Shimane prefecture is in Japanese territory, it is a crisis situation that is shaking the foundation of diplomatic relations with a neighboring country. If the Japanese government says it cannot control its local government, does this mean that Shimane prefecture exists outside of Japan’s sovereignty?
In this respect, we regret that the Japanese government adopted such an attitude and think that Japan’s central government can’t evade from taking the primary responsibility over the incident this time.
The bill passed by Shimane prefecture, which is mere a local autonomous body of Japan, has no legal effect on international law. And there is no change in the legal status of Tokto. Tokto is a part of Korean territory historically, geographically and according to international law. And Korea has been exercizing de facto sovereign rights over Tokto islets.
The anachronistic action taken by Shimane prefecture and the impotence of the central Japanese government that failed to stop it, however, make us look at Korea and Japan’s friendship with fundamental pessimism. The situation gets even more aggravated with the rise of Japan’s right-wing forces that do not mind hurting Japan’s relations with neighboring countries
South Korea will never look on idly at any action or provocation attempting to violate Korea’s territorial sovereignty. Korea-Japan friendship is important, but we can’t smile at a neighbor who tries to violate our territory. Japan must know this clearly.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the Ulsa Protectorate Treaty and the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between South Korea and Japan. We want both Korea and Japan to overcome past history and move forward to establish an advanced relationship, holding hands together to accomplish peace in Northeast Asia and the whole world.
We believe that the majority of Japnese people love peace and want to keep friendly relations with their neighboring countries. The action taken by Shimane prefecture is against the will of the majority of Japanese people. Rather, its action is in line with the logic of ultra-right imperialists who drove Japan into the whirlwind of World War II a century ago, and inflicted serious material, human and psychological damages on the people of Japan’s neighboring countries as well as on the Japanese themselves.
No one can hope to see bilateral relations between Korea and Japan go smoothly now. Our government cannot but take action against Japan that refuses our hand of friendship. Now, Koreans demand the government no longer respond to Japan in a lukewarm manner. Although there can be a considerable burden on Korea-Japan relations, people demand that the government should respond strongly against Japan, asking the country to take the responsibility for the provocations.
There are even demands such as summoning Korea’s ambassador to Japan, canceling events scheduled for celebration of “Korea-Japan Friendship Year” and to reconsider Korea-Japan relations fundamentally after expelling the Japanese ambassador to Korea. We understand the anger and emotions of the people, but the government must stay cool, considering such emotional reactions. It should be careful not to reflect the agitated emotions of the people in government policy.
There can’t be any compromise to the Japanese trial to tamper with our territory. But our response should be cool but decisive and consistent in manner.
As a part of our response, the government must consider the proposals that call for turning Tokto, a mere part of our territory, to a place where people can enjoy various activities: consider developing Tokto to the extent its ecosystem is not damaged; transfer the patrol and security duty of the island from the National Police Agency to the Marine Corps and allow people’s free visits and support various events held on the Tokto islets.
However, the fundamental basis of bilateral friendship should be maintained. The channels of dialogue between Seoul and Tokyo should be left open. Cooperation with Japan is inevitable in areas such as the North Kroean nuclear problem.
We have to leave the possibility of restoring friendly relations between our two countries, if Japan repents over its mistake.