[VIEWPOINT]Hopes for success of summitPeople’s attention has been focused on whether the Korea-Japan summit meeting yesterday would restore relations between South Korea and Japan to their former degree, after they worsened due to former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s obstinacy in visiting the Yasukuni shrine.
Both China and South Korea had requested that Japan clarify Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s position on the Yasukuni Shrine as a precondition for the respective summit meetings, held a day apart.
Prime Minister Abe’s office reportedly explained that he is now in a situation where he can only formulate a “vague strategy.”
It was expected that Japan would give consideration to the issue of differing understandings of shared history by announcing a prime minister’s statement at the summit meetings with China and South Korea respectively. The problems related to historical conflicts between South Korea and Japan cannot be fundamentally solved in this way.
However, no one wants the Korea-Japan relationship to continue to deteriorate to a chronic emotional conflict between the two countries due to discrepancies in the understanding of their shared history.
Taking the Korea-Japan summit meeting held yesterday as a turning point, we have to plan strategically how to establish a new Korea-Japan relationship.
In order to find a method, let’s adapt the rules for success in a selfish society formulated by Professor Robert Axelrod of the University of Michigan to Korean diplomacy.
If we change his rules into rules for Korean diplomacy to succeed in international relations, they would be, “First, build an image of a cooperative country (be nice). Second, if a country betrays you, punish it immediately (be punishing). Third, take action according to the degree of damage done to your profits (be forgiving). Fourth, build credibility by making your position toward others clear (be clear).”
Let’s take a fresh look at this Korea-Japan summit meeting according to those four rules of diplomacy.
Firstly, Korea must make clear that it will cooperate with Japan, if Mr. Abe does not visit Yasukuni Shrine and has a proper understanding of history. The current Abe administration has a strong tendency of misunderstanding that any conflict with Korea will be resolved if Japan succeeds in its concentrated efforts to improve relations with China.
However, Mr. Abe himself knows emotionally that Korea is one of the most important countries for Japan in Asian relations. Through yesterday’s summit meeting, Prime Minister Abe should have helped our two countries move toward building a future-oriented cooperative relationship by developing emotional ties with Korea.
Secondly, we have to make clear, leaving no doubts behind, that Korea will take strong punitive action against the expression of distorted historical understanding, including a visit by Mr. Abe to Yasukuni Shrine. Prime Minister Abe might have tried to make the summit meeting an important political achievement in an effort to improve diplomatic relations with his Asian neighbors.
There was speculation that, considering the importance of the summit diplomacy, Mr. Abe himself moved up the dates of the meetings with Korea and China to have them precede elections for the Japanese House of Representatives scheduled for October 22.
In that case, we have to concentrate our diplomatic efforts to make sure that Mr. Abe does not fail to make political achievements. In other words, we have to make sure that Prime Minister Abe can foresee that he will fail in his diplomatic achievements and suffer a great political loss if he pays a visit to Yasukuni Shrine.
Thirdly, we should emphasize our principles on issues related to historical understanding, but the meeting should also have been a place of cooperation on other problems, such as North Korea. Cooperation with Japan is important in the current situation where North Korea has announced a nuclear test.
Both Korea and Japan need to show an attitude of sharing wisdom to cope with North Korea’s nuclear test, instead of claiming to adopt policies that serve only the interest of each country.
Fourthly, I hope that the Korea-Japan summit meeting was a forum for the two countries to look for a role they can each play in the international community by overcoming the conflicts arising from their differences in historical understanding.
Although there are many international agenda items such as terrorism and environmental problems, the reality is that Korea and Japan are unable to play a strong role internationally because they are bound by the problem of having conflicting understandings of their shared history. I look forward to seeing Korea and Japan cooperate toward a higher vision and goal for the future.
* The writer is the director of the Sejong Institute Japan Center. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Jin Chang-soo