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2009年1月13日 (火)

日韓首脳会談 北の分断戦術に動じるな

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 13, 2009)

Japan, South Korea must strengthen ties

日韓首脳会談 北の分断戦術に動じるな(113日付・読売社説)

It is North Korea's usual tactic to try to divide negotiating partners. Japan and South Korea must maintain strong cooperation with the new U.S. administration without being shaken by such tactics.


In talks in Seoul on Monday, Prime Minister Taro Aso and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak agreed to closely cooperate with the new U.S. administration of Barack Obama that will take office on Jan. 20 in order to realize their basic goal of denuclearizing North Korea through the six-party talks.


In the six-party talks in December, the participating countries could not agree on stipulating a procedure to verify Pyongyang's nuclear declaration, including sample-taking from the country's nuclear facilities. The next round of six-party talks likely will be held after the new U.S. administration sets its policies regarding North Korea and a new State Department official is appointed to act for the United States at the talks.


A joint editorial run on New Year's Day by the three main state-run newspapers in North Korea stressed a confrontational approach against South Korea, but on the other hand, recognized the importance of dialogue with the United States. Meanwhile, North Korea has been postponing its reinvestigation of Japanese nationals abducted to the country and still has not agreed to openly and honestly discuss the abduction issue in a good faith. It is quite an insincere attitude.



Divide and conquer

Taken as a whole, North Korea's moves can be seen as tactics aimed at driving a wedge between the United States and Japan and South Korea and expediting bilateral negotiations with the United States rather than advancing six-party talks. Aso, in the summit meeting with Lee, pointed out that North Korea might move to split the trilateral security framework of Japan, South Korea and the United States after the new U.S. administration takes office.


In the final stage of the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, as the administration put priority on the overall success of the six-party talks in denuclearizing North Korea, negotiators were unable to put the finishing touches on the more immediate goal of sorting out the nuclear verification process.


It will become important for Japan and South Korea to discuss policies on North Korea in-depth with the Obama administration as early as possible and take concerted action in line with a policy to seek a strict nuclear verification process.


In the summit talks, Japan and South Korea welcomed the setting of the foundation for alternating annual visits by the prime minister and the president and also agreed to promote bilateral cooperation to solve the global financial crisis and provide support for Afghanistan.



Overcoming tensions

In 2008, the relationship between Japan and South Korea became tense when the Japanese education ministry issued an instruction manual for new middle school social studies curriculum guidelines that mentioned for the first time that students should be taught that the disputed Takeshima group of islets, which South Korea calls Dokdo and claims as sovereign territory, belong to Japan. Nevertheless, leaders of Japan and South Korea exchanged visits four times over the year. Relations flowered, with the leaders meeting in each of the last three months of the year, including discussions at international gatherings.


It is important that leaders of the two countries continue to exchange opinions frankly in spite of difficult problems related to historical and territorial issues and try to find solutions to these issues in a future-oriented manner.


Accumulating concrete achievements, such as bilateral cooperation in financial reforms and macroeconomic policies in battling the financial crisis, and supporting Afghanistan's reconstruction in the fields of job training and agriculture, will help Japan and South Korea strengthen their ties.


An expert panel to discuss how the two countries should jointly cope with international problems will hold a preparatory meeting this month. We hope the two countries will rack their brains in order to remake their relationship, sometimes described as nations close geographically but distant politically, into one in which the two nations are close geographically and politically.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 13, 2009)

20091130136  読売新聞)


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