Noda must demonstrate couragePresident Lee Myung-bak, in a Sunday meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in Kyoto, Japan, raised Japan’s wartime enslavement of Korean “comfort women” as the subject of a summit meeting for the first time. President Lee’s gesture was a strong move toward eventually resolving the thorny issue.
Stressing the importance of Japan’s sincerity in dealing with the long-standing dispute as a top priority, Lee urged Noda to make a drastic decision, adding that the entire world is paying keen attention to how Japan will respond to the issue. We welcome President Lee’s action, which is intended to help build a better future between the two countries.
We interpret Lee’s remarks as emphasizing the urgent need to address the Japanese Imperial Army’s inhumane treatment of innocent women - an abominable infringement of human rights. As the issue becomes bigger, it will only damage Japan’s international reputation so the issue must be addressed as soon as possible, Lee argued.
Lee also made clear that if all the aging victims are left to die, it will leave an indelible stain on Japan. Japan planned to make an issue of the Peace Monument erected in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on Dec. 14, but it was reportedly shocked by Lee’s remarks that another Peace Monument will be set up one after another unless Japan does not come up with sincere measures.
Yet Prime Minister Noda’s reiteration of Japan’s previous stance appears to be for a domestic political purpose. Opposition Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki’s call for the Japanese government’s firm action on the erection of the Peace Monument might also have put extra political pressure on the prime minister. Tanigaki harshly criticized Noda for lacking diplomatic guts, particularly under the LDP. Bureaucrats at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs have also strongly resisted succumbing to Korea’s mounting pressure, which has caused Noda to decide that it was too early to resolve the issue, particularly given that he desperately needs cooperation from both opposition parties and the bureaucracy for his smooth governance of the country.
However, Noda must make a decision for Japan’s sake and the future of East Asia. If not, he cannot be free from the criticism that the biggest stumbling block to the prosperous bilateral relationship between Korea and Japan is not the issue of comfort women but an indecisive leader at a critical moment.