Hopes pinned on Bangkok meeting

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Hopes pinned on Bangkok meeting

Japan will hold a cabinet meeting this morning to determine whether to remove Korea from a list of countries eligible for preferential treatment in trade. In the afternoon, the foreign ministers of Korea, the United States and Japan will hold a meeting in Bangkok to discuss the U.S. proposal that its two allies stop their diplomatic battle. We hope Seoul and Tokyo find a breakthrough in the trilateral meeting arranged by Washington. Otherwise, the discord over trade and historical issues will not only damage the economies of Korea, Japan and the U.S. but also the global economy.

If Japan takes the dangerous path of dropping Korea from the so-called white list, it will not help anyone. If that really happens, Tokyo will have crossed a point of no return. That could mean the collapse of the seven-decade-old friendship between the two countries since World War II, not to mention a threat to peace and security in Northeast Asia.

Tokyo may think that economic retaliation based on its relative strengths in technology and capital can force Korea to surrender. But Korea is not the country it was decades ago. Japan’s retaliation will trigger huge losses for its own companies, which have been cooperating with their Korean customers in the global value chain. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must understand that he will face harsh international criticism for defying the principle of free trade and wielding a “sword” against a neighbor.

A meeting Thursday between our Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono failed. After Kono rejected Kang’s demand for suspension of the removal from the list, Kang reportedly threatened to scrap the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) — a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact — with Japan. That is a type of a “self-harm” to the Korea-U.S.-Japan alliance, which should be avoided at all costs.

An association of lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties went to Tokyo to ask for help, but they could not even meet with their Japanese counterparts. With only a day left before D-day, a diplomatic effort by our lawmakers was in vain.

Both countries must find a solution. They should agree to Washington’s proposal that Tokyo postpone its removal of Korea from the list in return for Seoul’s promise to not sell the assets of Japanese companies in Seoul to compensate wartime forced laborers. But before that, Japan must make a rational decision in the cabinet meeting this morning.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 2, Page 26
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