Don’t be fooled, AmericaPresident Park Geun-hye has elaborated on her initiative to achieve peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia, called the “Seoul Process,” before visiting the United States next month. At a press conference with top journalists from the print and broadcast media at the Blue House Wednesday, President Park talked about the “Asian paradox,” which refers to increasing conflicts over security and territorial disputes even while economic interdependence is ever growing in the region.
That’s why we should build trust among our neighbors beginning with nonpolitical areas like climate change, terrorism and nuclear reactors, she stressed, in what amounts to a Northeast Asian version of her trust-building process with North Korea. She plans to seek cooperation on the issues from U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.
But Park’s ideas are most likely to follow the trajectory of her grand design to first improve inter-Korean relations to pave the way for unification of the divided land, primarily due to Japan’s noticeably provocative moves. Though Park’s Seoul Process is based on trilateral participation and cooperation among Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo, the Shinzo Abe cabinet of Japan is increasingly fiddling with an anachronistic ploy to deny Japan’s invasion-tainted history.
Abe defined neighboring countries’ justifiable protests against his cabinet ministers’ paying respects to the war dead at the Yasukuni Shrine as “blackmail.” He even said the definition of the term invasion depends on which country uses it: the invader or the invaded. That clearly shows the dangerous path Japan will take from now: Toward a “normal” state capable of waging war against other countries. Call it the New Normal.
We are dumbfounded at Abe’s wrong-side-of-history foreign policy, which could cause a cataclysmic shift in the power dynamic of Northeast Asia. Yet the U.S. government adheres to its textbook position that Korea and Japan should peacefully resolve their issues through dialogue. Abe’s denial of Japan’s past is tantamount to a rejection of the six decade order in the region established by America after the end of World War II.
Japan’s behavior will hurt U.S. interest in the area, too. If the Obama administration opts to look on the dangerous development with folded arms, it is shortsighted. Washington must draw a clear line before it’s too late. That’s the only true path to peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the enhancement of U.S. interests. We hope President Park gives Obama a full understanding of Abe’s hazardous behavior.