Welcome guest or party pooper?Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed he is coming to the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics despite earlier speculation that he would skip the event in protest of the Seoul government’s criticism of the 2015 settlement of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery of Korean women.
We cannot be entirely comfortable about Abe’s arrival, as he told reporters he would be going to Korea to make it clear that his government cannot accept Seoul’s call for a more sincere apology and its refusal to regard the settlement of the comfort women as a final solution.
Abe said he also wants to express concerns about South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s engagement of Pyongyang in spite of clear North Korean nuclear threats.
Abe could be like a not entirely welcome guest crashing a party instead of a participant in true celebrations. Some suspect Abe was pressured by Washington to attend the opening ceremony.
Still, Abe will raise the profile of the event in the absence of leaders from other global powers — the United States, China and Russia.
Since the two are engaged in truly controversial subjects, the leaders should talk frankly and try to come to a common understanding. We cannot leave bilateral ties icy for long. The relationship could worsen if Seoul proceeds with its plan to liquidate a foundation created under the 2015 agreement.
Moon must use the momentum of Abe’s visit to find a breakthrough in bilateral relations. Differences can be ironed out if both parties talk sincerely. If they cannot find a compromise, chilly relations between the two countries may go on for a lengthy period. Moon must persuade Abe of his policy of separating issues of the past from those of the future.
The trilateral alliance among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo is essential against Pyongyang’s mounting nuclear threats.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 25, Page 30