Attention must be paid

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Attention must be paid

Japan’s Self-Defense Forces will no longer be restricted to “situations in the areas surrounding Japan” under a new framework of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Now, it can not only expand on the global stage but also in cyberspace.

On Wednesday, Washington and Tokyo discussed Japan’s new military position in a five-page interim report to revise guidelines on their bilateral security. The revision is designated to “ensure the seamless peace and security of Japan.” Once it is finalized by the end of the year, it will give Japan a stronger position against China - which has beefed up its military presence and its capabilities - and have ramifications across the region where South Korea and other countries still bear bitter memories of Japan’s past military aggressions.

The bilateral security guidelines, which were first written in 1978 to allow Japan help the United States against a possible attack from the Soviet Union, were revised in 1997. The two countries agreed last year to work toward new guidelines to equip the U.S.-Japan security alliance with responses to the modern threat environment - mostly from China.

In September, Japan reinterpreted its pacifist postwar Constitution to allow the use of force in defense of its own people and close allies. The new U.S.-Japan security stance was supposed to reflect Japan’s wish to restore its “sovereign” defense right, which happened to fall in line with Washington’s aim of containing the rising power and influence of China.

But this new posture could not only provoke China but also Russia and North Korea, potentially spurring both an arms race and Cold War-like tensions in the region. It also puts South Korea in an awkward position toward China due to its traditional security ties with the United States. Seoul is also worried about the expansion of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.

In a statement after the release of the report, Seoul warned Japan should not go ahead with any military activities that could affect security on the Korean Peninsula and the interests of South Korea without prior approval from the Korean government. Korea must strive to have its interests reflected in the final version of the U.S.-Japan alliance guidelines. Collective self-defense rights are bestowed to any sovereign state under the United Nations Charter. But Japan must remember that its military expansions worry neighboring countries because it has never genuinely repented for its past aggressions. Both the United States and Japan should pay heed to South Korea’s concerns.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 10, Page 34
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