Japan rattles a saber
The Japanese government approved 11 security-related bills that will allow the Japanese military to fight overseas for the first time since World War II.
Separately in Seoul, more than 300 businessmen from Korea and Japan issued a joint statement urging the two countries to mend ties and strengthen economic cooperation and civilian exchanges.
Under the new self-defense act and other supporting bills, Japan would be able to mobilize forces overseas if a close ally is attacked and Japan’s survival is at risk.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s campaign to empower the Japanese military by reinterpreting the pacifist constitution and dropping a self-imposed ban on exercising the right of collective self-defense has taken solid form.
Regardless of the official claims from Tokyo that it is committed to its pacifist pledges, neighboring countries that still bear bitter memories of aggression by Japan cannot but worry.
Seoul, however, toned down its criticism and said that Tokyo has made assurances that it will seek consent from concerned nations in advance if it was to exercise the right of so-called collective self-defense to protect itself and its allies.
But there are doubts about the provisions that require Japan to seek approval from Korea before sending any forces to the Korean Peninsula. The provision is included in a contingency law that defines the scope of military backup, but not in the armed attack law - which means Japan’s leaders could find a way to take unilateral action if they choose to do so.
After a forum in Seoul, Korean and Japanese businessmen pledged stronger business cooperation and promotion of civilian, youth and cultural ties. Leaders of the two nations have not had a summit talk for more than two years.
Cultural and grass-roots ties often helped mediate between the two countries in the past. We hope soft power can work again this time to thaw the frozen ties.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 15, Page 34