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2012年7月 9日 (月)


--The Asahi Shimbun, July 6
EDITORIAL: Surely Japan and South Korea can patch things up

Once again, things have become skewed between Japan and South Korea. This is most unfortunate.

The two countries were supposed to sign an accord on military intelligence sharing last week. But one hour before the signing ceremony, it was put off at the request of the South Korean side.

The deal had caused an outcry in South Korea because it was secretly endorsed by the Cabinet and not made public right away. The ruckus even led to the resignation of high-ranking government officials.

The proposed General Security of Military Information Agreement is a framework for the Self-Defense Forces and the South Korean military to share intelligence and safeguard that information.

It represented the first full-fledged attempt at defense cooperation between the two neighbors. As Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba put it, it was supposed to be "a historic event."

That is all the more reason we are disheartened by the last-minute postponement.

At the heart of the agreement is the sharing of information related to North Korea.

Japan and South Korea had no such formal framework, although both countries have separate accords with the United States.

A lack of communication between Tokyo and Seoul, which forms one side of the Japan-U.S.-South Korea intelligence-sharing triangle, was behind the confusion that reigned in Tokyo after North Korea tested a ballistic missile in April under the guise of a satellite launch.
That is why defense authorities of both countries had high expectations for the agreement.

However, there was persistent criticism of the pact in South Korea, which critics said could lead Japan to wage military aggression again.

South Korea has bitter memories of being colonized by Japan. There is also lingering resentment over the issue of "comfort women," who were forced to provide sexual services for Japanese soldiers before and during war, which no doubt has added to the sense of alarm.
Given this background, we can fully appreciate that people in South Korean are nervous about implications of military cooperation. Indeed, those feelings should not be ignored.

Still, the notion of Japan becoming an aggressive military power would bring looks of total surprise to most Japanese. We hope calm heads will prevail.

Japan, the United States and South Korea share common values.
Trilateral cooperation in the area of security in the Asia-Pacific region would greatly benefit South Korea, given North Korea's disquieting moves and China's flexing of military muscle.

Japan is partly to blame, though.
It recently sowed needless seeds of distrust by incorporating a provision to the Atomic Energy Basic Law that nuclear power should "contribute to national security."

That prompted a South Korean lawmaker to say his country should also possess nuclear capability. The comment was clearly pitched at South Korea's presidential election to be held in December.

Japan, too, is headed for a Lower House election. Politicians need to heed public opinion.

In any country, issues related to nationalism generate a sharp public response.

Off-the-cuff remarks by politicians tend to carry far more weight these days when the utterances are played up on the Internet.

That is all the more reason at a time like this, we urge politicians to keep their cool.


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