Listening to those who know warJapanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida expressed intention to provide 1 billion yen (9.89 million U.S. dollars) of Japanese government budget to the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation to support Korean victims of Japanese military sexual slavery. With the measure, the process to resolve the comfort women issue is to enter the implementation phase in earnest in accordance with agreement on early resolution of the comfort women issue by South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in last year’s summit for the first time in three and a half years. The agreement marked the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation and the 50 anniversary of normalization of diplomatic relations.
The process is also taken in line with agreement on Japan’s implementation of program to heal victims by spending 1 billion yen of Japanese government budget, and Korea’s confirmation of final and irreversible resolution under the condition of Japan’s measure late last year.
It is true that South Korea and Japan give different explanations on whether the 1 billion yen is compensation or not, because Japan did not specify its legal responsibility though it included “the Japanese government’s sense of deep responsibility” in the agreement on comfort women.
However, it is about time that the two neighbors sought historical reconciliation from a broader perspective. It is also laudable for the top diplomats of South Korea and Japan to express their commitment to resolve the issue in their telephone talks on Friday, as Tokyo did not raise issue with the “statue of girl” in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. Amid the growing tensions between the United States and China and Pyongyang’s pursuit of a nuclear and missile program, South Korea and Japan should have to cooperate on resolving many issues, including the THAAD deployment in South Korea and Japan’s territorial dispute over Senkaku islands (Chinese name: Diaoyudao) with China.
China is siding with North Korea in an act of protest against South Korea over planned THAAD deployment. Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to provide 500,000 tons in food aid to North Korea after receiving request for 1 million-ton food aid from North Korean foreign minister Ri Su Yong who visited Beijing in June, and Beijing is providing aid to Pyongyang accordingly. With China’s increased supply of crude oil to North Korea, China is clearly boycotting the U.N. Security Council sanctions against the North. At a special forum organized by the Korea-China Future Institute last week, ahead of the 24th anniversary of the Korea-China ties, Korea-China relations have been deemed to be in a crisis.
As North Korea-China relations, which was at a low point due to Pyongyang’s nuclear development and execution of Chang Sung Thaek, have restored, with Russia also joining hands, strengthening of security cooperation between South Korea, the U.S., and Japan has become imperative. If South Korea and Japan remain in constant dispute, the allies will not be able to flexibly cope with the North’s provocations. Firstly, Japan should stop backpedaling history. The funding of 1 billion yen is only the beginning, and Tokyo should display sincere commitment and efforts to heal the pain of comfort women or sex slaves. South Korea also must pursue the future, rather than the past. Ruling and opposition party lawmakers will visit South Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo on Monday, while Moon Jae-in, former chairman of the main opposition Minjoo Party, also visited the islets. It is natural that South Korean politicians visit Dokdo as South Korean territory, but they should be mindful of behaviors trying not to dampen South Korea-Japan relations when promoting their own “patriotism marketing.”
In her congratulatory message for Korea’s Liberation Day on Monday, President Park is expected to mention the development of South Korea-Japan relations and the need for the THAAD deployment. It is hoped that Park sends a future-oriented message vowing that South Korea will strengthen friendship and cooperation with neighboring countries and thereby achieve North Korea’s changes and ultimately the unification of the two Koreas. The U.S., Japan, North Korea and China are keeping a close watch on the future course of actions that the Republic of Korea will take.
Dong-A Ilbo, Aug. 15