Abe omits Seoul from his remarks on missiles

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Abe omits Seoul from his remarks on missiles


Shinzo Abe

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe conspicuously omitted South Korea Wednesday when he remarked Tokyo would closely cooperate with the United States in regard to the latest missile threat from Pyongyang.

The comments mirror those Abe made on July 25, when the North last tested two ballistic missiles, to which he responded Japan would “closely cooperate with the United States in the future.” His comments contrast those made by the Japanese Defense Ministry, which explicitly mentioned South Korea as a partner along with the United States in deterring the North’s missiles.

Speaking to reporters at the prime minister’s residence, Abe also said the North’s launches of two short-range ballistic missiles Wednesday morning did not pose a threat to Japanese national security.

Japanese Defense Minster Takeshi Iwaya also briefed reporters that the North Korean weapons did not reach Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the East Sea.

Despite failing to win a supermajority in the upper house elections on July 21 that would have enabled him to revise the country’s pacifist constitution, Abe continues to pursue his lifelong goal of making Japan a country able to wage war abroad once again.

Recent developments in Japan have gone his way, with one of the country’s opposition parties formerly opposed to constitutional revision - the Democratic Party for the People - considering hopping on the pro-reform bandwagon. With an additional 21 seats from this party, Abe and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party would have the necessary share of both houses to push through a revision.

Analysts say the Abe administration’s hostile stance toward Seoul - shown most visibly through its export restrictions on industrial products to South Korea in response to the Korean Supreme Court rulings ordering compensation to Koreans subjected to forced labor by Japanese companies during World War II - may be intended to further shore up public support ahead of a final push for a constitutional revision.

A domestic poll by The Asahi Shimbun earlier in July showed that 56 percent of the Japanese public saw the Abe government’s trade retaliations against Korea as “justified,” as opposed to 21 percent who were against the measures.

Japan’s socially active far-right has been a key player and driver of this process. Former South Korean presidential aide Cho Kuk attracted headlines in Seoul last week when he was photographed with a book, “The Identity of Nippon Kaigi,” about an ultranationalist association in Japan with powerful ties to politicians and the government.

Nippon Kaigi, to which Abe serves as an adviser and has leading cabinet members like Iwaya and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as members, seeks to, in its own words, “change the postwar national consciousness based on the Tokyo Tribunal’s view of history as a fundamental problem.” This, in effect, would entail overturning not merely the country’s constitution, but the entire postwar consensus that Japan committed heinous war crimes and crimes against humanity in World War II.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]
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