[Letters] The September legal sudoku

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[Letters] The September legal sudoku

China recently endorsed the Palestinian UN statehood bid. Japan and Korea are still undecided.

Both countries have traditionally held warm relations with Israel. In the past, Japan sided with Israel in UN fora and the Jewish state provided ample help and support in light of the tsunami catastrophe. Similarly, there are open defensive and commercial communication channels between Israel and Korea. Last March, an 11-member parliamentary delegation from Korea visited Israel for talks with Knesset officials and Israeli President Shimon Peres, raising the prospect of further economic cooperation between the two countries.

Both Japan and Korea have a clear Western orientation and although ghosts of the past still hover sometimes on a bilateral level, when it comes to multilateral diplomacy, such as the issue of Russian or Chinese influence in the North Korea nuclear disarmament discussions, the two countries form a common front. Such a common stance should be kept also in the case of the Middle East dispute in light of the late September Palestinian UN statehood bid.

Japan has occasionally stepped up its rhetoric against Israel’s settlement policy, especially since the Democratic Party came to power, in an effort to separate from U.S. influence. Whatever the decisions of the Japanese policy makers are, this should not lead to disengagement from the West.

This is essential to the region’s current phase as Japan struggles to rehabilitate its economy and heal the wounds from the recent earthquake, while Korea has to live with the possibility that the flames of war on the Korean Peninsula could suddenly ignite. Both countries need to demonstrate they have a clear orientation in their foreign policies. The Middle East conflict, in light of the September UN vote, constitutes the most immediate foreign policy coherence test.

In this, Australia shows the way. Only recently Canberra pulled out of Durban III, an international conference aimed to serve as a follow up to the original Durban conference ten years ago, which had been marred by accusations that the unjustifiable signaling out of Israel bordered the limits of anti-Semitism.

The Asia-Pacific region and its Far East Japan-Korea extension has revealed in the past a tendency to differentiate from the rest of Asia on international issues, with these two countries as well as others such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines having demonstrated - unlike the rest of Asia - a more intense will to engage with international judicial bodies, from the International Court of Justice to the International Criminal Court.

As such, a coherent Japanese and Korean UN September vote on the purported Palestinian statehood bid holds a particular importance. For Israel, it is essential. But ultimately, it is in Japan’s and Korea’s interest, reaffirming their commitment to their Western identity. In the long term, it is through adherence to the longtime post-World War II cherishment of Western ideals that both the natural catastrophe-plunged Japan and Korea can bolster their credentials.

After all, it is this faith to principles, so characteristic of Asian culture, that in cases of differences of opinion, like between China and Japan or even in cases of violent disputes, like those between the two Koreas, can signal a substantial diplomacy, ultimately transliterated into support not only from the West, but also from the international community at large.

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.


Solon Solomon, a former member of the Knesset Legal Department in charge of international and constitutional issues
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