Time to end this spat with Japan

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Time to end this spat with Japan

The friction between Seoul and Tokyo is deepening over the tense moment on the East Sea following an earlier one over the South Korean Supreme Court’s ruling over Japan’s compensation for its forced labor of conscripted South Koreans during its colonial days. We are dumbfounded that both countries are engaged in a heated diplomatic tit-for-tat over the incident involving a South Korean destroyer and a Japanese patrol aircraft last month on the high seas off the Dokdo islets. They should join forces to address the nuclear threats from North Korea and other urgent issues.

Both sides’ conflicts over the two cases cannot be resolved by emotional attacks from either’s government. The brawl over whether South Korea’s destroyer really aimed its fire-control radar (FCR) at an approaching Japanese aircraft has escalated to a dispute over why the airplane flew over the warship too closely. Public sentiments between the two countries are headed to their worst-ever level. The exacerbation of the situation owes a lot to both sides’ one-sided release of video clips capturing the tense moments instead of quietly trying to find the truth behind the case.

Last Friday, both countries’ foreign ministers agreed to resolve the dispute through a working-level meeting between both sides’ military authorities. On the same day, however, our Ministry of National Defense made public videos it said refuted Japan’s allegations. The ministry threatened to post them on its official website in eight different languages after Japan also posted related videos on its website in English. As a result, Japanese netizens are bent on criticizing the images posted by our defense ministry. This emotional fighting does not help. Though what really happened at the moment has not yet been found, either side did not suffer substantial damage. Therefore, if our destroyer really aimed its FCR at the approaching airplane, our military authorities should apologize to Japan and wrap up the case. If the Japanese aircraft was really confused about the radar signal, it should apologize.

The same principle applies to the case of our highest court’s ruling that backs Japan’s compensation for its forced labor. The two top courts in Seoul and Tokyo can, of course, judge the same case in a different way. Nevertheless, it is simply not right for Japan to attack a ruling by a sovereign state’s top court. Moreover, a number of Japanese lawyers support the Korean court’s ruling.

On Sunday, however, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared on broadcaster NHK and criticized our court’s ruling on the grounds that it violates international law. Both governments must stop their irrational attacks and prioritize their future relationship. Diplomatic experts attribute the deepening squabble to both sides’ need for political gains to help their respective administrations’ falling approval rating. It is time to take a deep breath and find a reasonable solution.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 7, Page 30
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