Dis­dain for Ja­pan on the rise in ROK: poll

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By ZHAO YANRONG and REN QI

ROK cit­i­zens who

see Ja­pan as a ri­val rather than a

part­ner

Repub­lic of Korea cit­i­zens have a grow­ing an­i­mos­ity for Ja­pan due to the two coun­tries’ ter­ri­to­rial and his­tor­i­cal is­sues, a re­cent sur­vey in the ROK showed.

But the United States, an ally of both the ROK and Ja­pan, ex­pects the ROK to in­crease its co­op­er­a­tion with Ja­pan re­gard­less of their dif­fer­ences to deal with in­creas­ing ten­sions in the Korean Penin­sula, ex­perts said.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port on Tues­day by Yon­hap, the ROK’s largest news agency, an of­fi­cer at the US De­fense Depart­ment said the ROK should set aside its dif­fer­ences with Ja­pan to im­prove their se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion.

The Wash­ing­ton-based se­nior of­fi­cer said the joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises be­tween the US, Ja­pan and ROK are be­com­ing more fre­quent, and their co­op­er­a­tion is grow­ing. For in­stance, the three coun­tries con­ducted joint anti-piracy ex­er­cises in the Gulf of Aden early this month.

The ROK’s peace­keep­ers in South Su­dan will re­ceive 10,000 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion from Ja­pan via the United Na­tions to beef up their de­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties amid the in­ten­si­fy­ing con­flict in the fledg­ling African na­tion.

While ten­sions in the Korean Penin­sula are in­creas­ing, the ROK govern­ment may change its orig­i­nal po­si­tion, set aside his­tor­i­cal is­sues with Ja­pan to in­crease re­gional se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion as the US ex­pects, Yon­hap re­ported.

Be­cause Ja­pan and the ROK both are US al­lies, a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship be­tween Seoul and Tokyo is good for the US’ re­bal­anc­ing strat­egy in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, said Shi Yuan­hua, direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Korean Stud­ies un­der the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies of Fu­dan Univer­sity in Shang­hai.

“It’s not the first time the US has pushed Seoul to es­tab­lish an al­liance with Tokyo de­spite the his­tor­i­cal is­sues, and the US will push more for its own in­ter­ests in the fu­ture,” he said.

How­ever, it is un­likely that ROK will set aside those is­sues to be­come a real se­cu­rity part­ner of Ja­pan, he said.

“The ROK has ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes with Ja­pan, and Ja­pan has not re­sponded prop­erly to is­sues like ‘com­fort women’ (World War II-era sex slaves) and Ja­panese his­tory text­books” that down­play Ja­panese ag­gres­sion in the war and Ja­pan’s 35-year oc­cu­pa­tion of the Korean Penin­sula.

“Es­tab­lish­ing an al­liance with Ja­pan means the ROK must give up its own na­tional in­ter­ests based on those is­sues, which the ROK’s peo­ple will not ac­cept,” he said.

Shi Yong­ming, a re­searcher of Asi­aPa­cific stud­ies at the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, said the ROK govern­ment has two main re­gional strate­gies — act­ing as the me­di­a­tor be­tween China and US in the re­gion, and seek­ing rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea.

“But nei­ther of the strate­gies re­quires Tokyo’s par­tic­i­pa­tion,” he added.

Ja­pan Daily Press re­ported on Mon­day that Ja­pan scored just 2.57 points on a scale of zero to 10 in a sur­vey that eval­u­ated ROK peo­ple’s pos­i­tive feel­ings to­ward the coun­try. Ja­pan’s to­tal was barely above the DPRK’s 2.37 points, ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey, con­ducted by Re­search & Re­search, an ROK mar­ket in­for­ma­tion com­pany.

The de­cline of warm feel­ings to­ward Ja­pan is at­trib­uted mostly to the Ja­panese govern­ment’s per­ceived tilt­ing to the ex­treme right un­der Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe.

This year, ROK res­i­dents took of­fense at Ja­pan’s re­newed claims to the ROK-con­trolled Dokdo Islets, which Tokyo calls the Takeshima Is­lands. There was also a lot of un­hap­pi­ness about Ja­panese politi­cians’ vis­its to the con­tro­ver­sial Ya­sukuni Shrine, which hon­ors Ja­panese war dead — in­clud­ing World War II war crim­i­nals.

All of these events have led a larger num­ber of ROK cit­i­zens to see Ja­pan as a ri­val rather than a part­ner — 66.2 per­cent this month. Contact the writ­ers at zhaoy­an­rong@chi­nadaily.com.cn and renqi@chindaily.com.cn

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