A solution for heads of state
The hidden agenda of the Korea-U.S. summit in Washington, D.C. on October 16 may be the Korea-Japan relations. There seems to be little difference in positions for the Korea-U.S. alliance in response to the North Korean nuclear issue.
The bilateral Korea-Japan relationship is solid. However, Washington may view its relationship with Korea from the greater frame of rebalance in Asia. Lately, the United States has earned two major benefits from its relations with Japan. The first is the Security Law, which includes Japan’s right to collective self-defense. Japan’s active contribution in security had been Washington’s long wish. The other is the fundamental agreement of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Redefining the rules of trade and investment, the TPP is closely associated with the Asia-Pacific order led by the U.S. and Japan. We need to remember that the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement has more than economic impacts.
Now, the U.S. may want to accelerate restoration of cooperation among Korea, Japan and the United States. As an ally to both Korea and Japan, the U.S. can complete the rebalancing policy with improved Korea-Japan relations. Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama brokered a trilateral summit with Korea and Japan, in an effort to mend the severed link among the three countries. It reminds us that the United States had always played the role of mediator in negotiation for normalization between Korea and Japan since 1951. The Korea-Japan relationship is important, regardless of Washington’s position. Japan is a neighbor that shares the basic values of liberty, democracy and human rights. Mutual exchanges and cooperation became the foundation of prosperity and peace in East Asia. The last half century of normalized relations proves the benefit.
The Korea-Japan relationship is coming to a watershed. Later this month, a Korea-China-Japan summit is to be held in Seoul, and we are watching whether it will bring a breakthrough in the comfort women issue. If the atmosphere doesn’t change in the Korea-Japan bilateral summit, it won’t be easy to find a momentum for improvement. Korea is slated to have the general election in April, 2016, and the Diet election is scheduled in July in Japan. Next year, it won’t be easy to discuss sensitive issues.
?The comfort women issue is not something that can be resolved between Korean and Japanese officials. The agreement on Japan’s acknowledgment of accountability, apology and compensation cannot be made without the decisions of the two leaders. ?Leaving the issue to the officials mean giving up an agreement. ?In the end, the heads of state have to resolve it. The leaders need to be resolute. ?? ?The Genkai Sea should be a strait of mutual prosperity, not confrontation and distrust.
The author is the JoongAng Ilbo Tokyo bureau chief.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 13, Page
by OH YOUNG-HWAN