Abe wants it both waysJapan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reiteration of hopes for meetings with leaders of South Korea and China attracts our attention. On his trips to three Southeast Asian countries last week, Abe said he aspires to have open-minded talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and encourages other meetings between the two countries’ foreign ministers. In a lecture in Singapore, Abe defined Seoul-Tokyo ties as a foundation for regional security (along with the United States) and for economic and cultural cooperation. In a press conference in the Philippines last weekend, he went so far as to state that South Korea is Japan’s most important neighbor sharing fundamental values and interests. As for China, Abe said he hoped to resume dialogue with Beijing as soon as possible after underscoring an “inseparable relationship” between the two countries.
Abe has toured Asian nations that have their own territorial disputes with China to create an amicable atmosphere for his concept of a “right to collective self-defense” after winning upper house elections on July 21. Some analysts cast doubts on his hopes for summits with South Korean and Chinese leaders given that apparent motive for the trip. But we don’t have to adhere to suspicious perspectives. The fact is that Japan couldn’t even hold summit talks with its nearest neighbors, not to mention foreign ministerial-level meetings.
The problem is the Abe cabinet’s denial of Japan’s belligerent, imperialist past and its embrace of territorial disputes with its neighbors. Beijing and Tokyo are in a sharp confrontation over a group of uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. Japan is also in severe conflict with South Korea over historical issues - including wartime sex slaves, in particular - and the Dokdo islets. Abe should have refrained from rubbing salt into the wounds of Koreans in regards to territorial disputes if he really wants better relations with us. But the Abe cabinet has inflicted deep scars in our hearts through reckless remarks and provocative acts on a number of occasions.
If Abe desires to have summits with his Korean and Chinese counterparts, he must first prove his sincerity. He or his cabinet members should not pay respects at the Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. If he sincerely apologizes for Japan’s aggressions during the war and colonial rule through an Abe statement on par with those by his predecessors Tomiichi Murayama and Yohei Kono, it will open the way to summits with his neighbors.