[EDITORIALS]Ignore diplomat’s remarkShotaro Yachi, vice foreign minister of Japan, told Korean lawmakers of the National Assembly’s Defense Committee who visited Japan, “Japan hesitates to share information and cooperate with South Korea since Washington seems not have full confidence in Seoul.” After his remarks were reported, the Foreign Ministry and the Blue House expressed blunt displeasure and requested that Japan take appropriate measures toward Mr. Yachi. Some say the issue should be linked to the upcoming Korea-Japan summit.
The case of Mr. Yachi’s remarks has two aspects. One is whether Mr. Yachi told the truth, and the other is that he acted inappropriately as a third-party country’s diplomat. His remarks invite misunderstanding as he attempted to meddle in another nation’s diplomatic issues. Though he explained that he made the remarks in an informal place as Japan’s foreign policymaker, it is still clear that he failed to respect diplomatic courtesy. In this aspect, Japan was thoughtless.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry and the Blue House, however, are responsible for the situation as well. If Mr. Yachi’s remarks were true, then it is an extremely serious matter.
Then, diplomatic impoliteness is a small problem. We must think carefully why a vice foreign minister, a career diplomat with in-depth knowledge of diplomatic protocols, made such a remark. South Koreans want to know whether Mr. Yachi was speaking the truth, than whether he failed or not to respect diplomatic courtesy.
This year, a series of undesirable incidents took place one after another between Seoul and Toko. After the Japanese ambassador to South Korea said the Dokdo islands are part of Japan’s territory, Tokyo approved distorted history and geography textbooks. Japan’s leaders ― including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi ― repeatedly made controversial remarks about the history of South Korea and Japan and declared their intention to continue visiting the Yasukuni shrine. Mr. Yachi’s remarks could possibly worsen already damaged ties between Seoul and Tokyo and negatively affect cooperation between South Korea, Japan and the United States.
South Korea and Japan share a serious pending issue ― North Korea’s nuclear aspirations. Therefore, it is probably better to end the discord over Mr. Yachi’s remarks. Amplifying the trouble will not benefit either country. South Korea and Japan must use the June summit as an opportunity to find common ground.