Korea warns Japan on scope of self-defense

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Korea warns Japan on scope of self-defense

Amid escalating concerns over Japan’s push to seek the right of collective self-defense, the Korean government has delivered its stance on the controversial move, presenting three principles through an oral message to the Japanese government.

The key point of the demand concerns the limitation of Japan’s military deployment on the Korean Peninsula.

“We recently delivered a message that well reflects the Korean government’s position and concerns over Japan’s exercising of collective self-defense,” a senior diplomatic source was quoted as saying by the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

“The message can be interpreted as ‘a warning’ to Japan, so that the discussion of collective self-defense in the country can be conducted in an appropriate way,” the source said.

The first principle states that the debate over the rearmament of Japan should be carried out in a way that can contribute to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the Northeast Asian community.

“There is a varying interpretation on the notion of [Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe’s ‘active pacifism’ and the idea causes concerns from neighboring countries,” the Korean government reportedly expressed in the verbal message.

The term “active pacifism” was coined by Abe this year. On the surface, it asserts Japan’s increasing role in ensuring regional peace in the Asia Pacific region, but countries like China and South Korea see the idea as rising military aggression from the nation that is barred from using armed forces unless it comes under direct attack.

“Japan should not jeopardize the regional security and peace, which holds paramount value [through the exercise of its right of collective self-defense]. And Japan will be held accountable for proving whether their deployment of armed forces are justifiable or not,” the Korean government said.

The second principle insists that any future Japanese military involvement on the Korean Peninsula be limited to extra assistance based on the directions of the Korea-U.S. alliance and that Japan be strictly prohibited from carrying out proactive military actions. The demand appears to echo the case made by a high-ranking Korean government official during a visit to the United States on Oct. 25. During the visit, the official reportedly demanded that Korea have a say when it comes to Japan’s expanded exercising of its self-defense on the peninsula.

The third principle holds that Japan’s gaining the right to collective self-defense not go against Korea’s Constitution. A source familiar with the matter said that this demand is intended to not warrant Japan’s military move toward North Korea. The Constitution of South Korea stipulates that “the territory of the Republic of Korea shall consist of the Korean Peninsula and its adjacent islands,” implying that North Korea is part of its territory.

“The bottom line of the message is that South Korea will consider Japan’s unilateral military action against the North as an attack on the South,” said the source.

The move came as Abe pushes to revise his country’s Constitution to permit Japanese troops to come to the defense of the United States and possibly other allies who are under attack. Under the current interpretation of Japan’s Constitution, Japan’s armed forces are not allowed to fight in defense of friends or allies unless the Japanese themselves come under direct attack.

Tensions have flared as Australia, the United Kingdom, the European Union as well as the United States have all expressed support for Japan’s move to reclaim its right to collective self-defense. A Japanese government source confirmed the sending of the message and said it will be reviewed by the Japanese government.

BY KIM HYUN-GI, PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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