Abe needs to change course

The Korea Times - - OPINION -

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.

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