Abe needs to change course
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shown no signs of changing his hardline stance on historical and trade disputes with Korea. During a policy speech to a Lower House plenary session Oct. 4, he repeated his position that Seoul should keep its promise to Tokyo. His remarks certainly implied Korea should abide by its 1965 treaty with Japan that he claims settled all reparation claims arising from its 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea.
“I intend to call on (South Korea) to abide by a promise made between our countries in line with international law,” Abe said. Although he called Korea an “important neighbor,” he apparently intended to urge the Moon Jae-in administration to reverse rulings by South Korea’s Supreme Court that ordered Japanese firms to pay compensation to surviving Korean victims of forced labor before and during World War II.
In July, Tokyo imposed export restrictions on three core materials that are essential for Korean firms manufacturing semiconductors and displays. It also removed Korea from its “whitelist” of favored trading partners in August, making it difficult for Korean firms to buy Japanese industrial materials, parts and equipment. Such measures are an apparent trade retaliation against Korea over the forced labor rulings, even though Japan denies this.
During his parliamentary speech, Abe even claimed that Japan advocated for “racial equality” at the now-defunct League of Nations nearly 100 years ago. His claim is contradictory, considering Japan’s colonization of Korea and aggression in China and other Asian countries. It is apparently designed to justify Tokyo’s past imperialism, colonialism and militarism.
We call on Abe to face up to history squarely and change course. Without doing so, Japan cannot reflect on its disgraced history and truly reconcile with many Asian neighbors whose people suffered untold pains and sorrows due to its aggression and brutal colonial rule in the first half of the 20th century.