President Park Geun-hye met with Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe at the presidential office on Thursday and said Koreans and Japanese had been friends and bonded with frequent exchanges but now even public sentiment appears to be cooling due to political difficulties, which was regretful. The Koreanpublic believes the same about bilateral relations, but now it is time to give serious thought to the measures to resolve this situation. Leaving the predicament as it is now will only make bilateral relations even more difficult, and could likely have a negative impact on the international community.
Masuzoe is known to have deliveredto Park a message from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who wants a summit. Abe has said multiple times he wishes to meet with Park, but she has not responded, only having a three-way summit with the U.S. and Japan in March. She appears to believe a Korea-Japan summit could backfire if they only end up confirming their differences given Abe does not have a genuine change in his way of thinking.
It is extremely disappointing that Abe is refusing to acknowledge the responsibility for Japanese atrocities during the Pacific War, with its refusal to positively review the Kono Statement, which admitted there were forced wartime sex slaves. The committee onInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rightsalso recommended on Thursday to the Japanese government to apologize to and compensate openly the victims of forced wartime sexual slavery. It is a cause for concern that Japan is claiming territorial rights to the Dokdo Islets, permitting its rights to collective self-defense, and exchanges with North Korea with the excuse of kidnapped Japanese issue. Yet if Korea and Japan cannot go past these issues, it is difficult to expect progress in bilateral relations.
The change in influence in the Northeast Asian region is unusual. Korea뭩 diplomatic choice over the U.S. and China will determine the fate of the Korean Peninsula. Although Korea has used the partnership with the U.S. and Japan as pivotsto its diplomacy, now the U.S. and Japan are concerned over the coziness of Korea-China relations. President Park뭩 passive attitude, where she only shuns Abe, could act to Japan뭩 advantage in foreign countries that do not know well Korea-Japan relations.
Like it or hate it, Japan is a neighboring country which shares in common free democracy and a market economy with Korea. Park needs to see bilateral relations from the big picture and discuss key issues with Abe for national gain and its future. We cannot afford to be the same way on the 50-year anniversary of diplomatic relations normalization with Japan next year.