Sincerity is key

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Sincerity is key

Kim Kwan-jin, chief of the National Security Office, discussed bilateral issues yesterday with his Japanese counterpart Shotaro Yachi, the national security adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Yachi, a close diplomatic aide to Abe, explained Tokyo’s follow-up steps to the controversial exercising of its right to collective self-defense and expressed a strong need for Seoul-Washington-Tokyo collaboration on ongoing talks between North Korea and Japan. He also asked South Korea to make efforts to improve their mutual ties next year, which will mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Yachi also had a separate meeting with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and National Intelligence Service chief Lee Byung-kee, the former ambassador to Tokyo.

It is totally desirable that Japan’s security chief met with his counterparts at the Blue House, Defense Ministry and the top spy agency to establish communication channels. The simmering conflicts between his nation and ours over territorial and historical issues cannot be a reason for severing bilateral cooperation on the security front. Between the two nations, director-level consultations continue and a strategic dialogue between deputy ministers was also held for the first time since the launch of the Park Geun-hye administration in 2012. Resolving pending issues through multi-layered channels befits a relationship between the two mature democracies.

However, questions linger over Japan’s sincerity. Experts are skeptical that Tokyo is sincere about holding a Seoul-Tokyo summit compared with the efforts it made to hold a summit with Beijing. Abe mentions a summit whenever the need arises, but won’t face the sex slave issue. If Tokyo has the intention to make Seoul isolated through a summit with Beijing, it will only backfire.

Another problem is the Abe cabinet’s approach to history and the former sex slaves. The Abe cabinet is engaged in a full-fledged campaign to deny Tokyo’s despicable misdeeds. Last weekend, three female cabinet ministers paid a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Class-A war criminals of World War II are honored, backtracking on the Murayama Statement that repented and apologized for Japan’s colonization of Korea and its aggressions.

Under such circumstances, a summit cannot be held. Even if it is held, it will go nowhere. We urge Japan to demonstrate sincerity. That’s the only way for Tokyo to be respected in Korea and the world.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 22, Page 30

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