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2011年12月20日 (火)

日韓首脳会談 慰安婦で安易な妥協は禁物だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 20, 2011)
Don't make easy compromise on 'comfort women' issue
日韓首脳会談 慰安婦で安易な妥協は禁物だ(12月19日付・読売社説)

Japan absolutely must refrain from making an easy compromise on the issue of so-called comfort women.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak in Kyoto on Sunday.

During their talks, the president sought the prime minister's "decision" on the issue, insisting that resolving it should be given priority while some former comfort women are still alive.

The prime minister reiterated Japan's position that the issue had been legally settled but called for using wisdom from a humanitarian standpoint.

The president apparently brought up the comfort women issue with a view to recent developments in his country, such as a stiffening of public sentiment after South Korea's constitutional court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the government not to make an effort to have Japan pay compensation to the comfort women.


Already a settled matter

However, Japan and South Korea already signed a bilateral accord stating that the right to demand wartime compensation had been "fully and finally settled" when the two countries normalized diplomatic ties in 1965.

The government must firmly maintain this position. The issue involves recognizing the facts of history. So, even if Japan were to take half measures from a "humanitarian standpoint," it would be difficult to satisfy South Korea and would only be likely to further complicate the problem.

More problematic is the South Korean government's tacit approval of a South Korean private organization setting up a statue of a girl symbolizing comfort women in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

In their meeting, Noda requested of Lee that the statue be removed as soon as possible. But the president objected, saying that unless Japan takes sincere measures, another statue will be added every time a former comfort woman dies.

South Korea's argument makes no sense. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations stipulates that "the receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps...to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity."

The Japanese government believes the South Korean government's tacit approval of the statue violates the convention. Noda was quite right to demand the statue's removal. The Japanese government must tenaciously urge the South Korean side to remove it.


Other important topics sidelined

The comfort women issue wound up taking a conspicuously long time in the bilateral summit meeting, which failed to deepen discussions on other important issues. The South Korean side is responsible for this result.

However, it is also important to keep the comfort women issue from causing the Japan-South Korea relationship to stagnate.

As for the stalled negotiations on the economic partnership agreement between the two countries, Noda called for accelerating discussions to resume the talks as soon as possible, but the president did not give a positive response.

Apparently wary of a further increase in its trade deficit with Japan, South Korea remains cautious about resuming the negotiations. However, if Japan moves forward by boldly opening its market, it will benefit both countries quite a lot.

If Japan and South Korea fail to keep in step with each other on issues involving North Korea, such as its nuclear development program and abduction of Japanese nationals, it could only benefit North Korea.

The two countries should cooperate on economic and security issues from a broader viewpoint to steadily move forward on various problems.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 19, 2011)
(2011年12月19日01時10分  読売新聞)


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