Rearmament has officials agitated

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Rearmament has officials agitated

As Japan moves toward rearmament, Kim Han-gill, chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party, called out President Park Geun-hye, stating that her silence on the issue is “a very serious problem.”

“If our government allows the [Shinzo] Abe administration to secure rights to collective self-defense, it goes against our people’s national interest,” Kim said at a Supreme Council meeting yesterday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recently pushed to revise his country’s pacifist constitution to amend an article that prohibits Japan from exercising its right of collective self-defense.

Kim said that Japan is a “war criminal state that still refuses to apologize to our country” for its past historical aggressions, and argued that Japanese rearmament “will make the Northeast Asia region a volatile area and have a negative impact on trade with China and the Korean economy.”

“President Park has to express a clear view showing opposition on this issue and make our position clear to the United States,” he said.

However, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Cho Tai-young told reporters on Tuesday that the government was, in fact, being proactive in expressing its views.

“It is not that our government has no position or is doing nothing,” he said. “Our government is conveying our position on this issue to Japan and the United States through various routes.”

Earlier this month, foreign defense ministers from the United States and Japan held security meetings in Tokyo and reached a decision to revise guidelines that allow Japan the right to collective self-defense. An alarmed Seoul conveyed to Washington last week its views on Japan’s right to collective self-defense, asking that Korea’s national sovereignty not be compromised.

Ruling party and opposition lawmakers criticized the administration’s tepid response and its seeming inability to stand up to the United States.

“What’s the idea of our government speaking about the right of self-defense not to the country in question - Japan - but to the United States?” said Park Hae-ja, a Democratic Party representative and a member of the Supreme Council.

Saenuri lawmaker Song Kwang-ho also stressed the need for Korea to be more assertive in its dealings with both nations.

“If the political situation does not turn out as hoped, at that time, what will we say?” he said. “We need to cope with Japan and the United States in a stronger, more meticulous manner through diplomacy and military means.”


BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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