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2012年8月25日 (土)

竹島・尖閣審議 民主は「配慮外交」を反省せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 25, 2012)
DPJ must reconsider overly conciliatory stance on Takeshima
竹島・尖閣審議 民主は「配慮外交」を反省せよ (8月24日付・読売社説)

When handling a territorial issue, it is essential for the government to assert the nation's stance resolutely while keeping a cool head in pursuit of a peaceful solution to the problem.

A session of the House of Representatives' Budget Committee was held on Thursday for intensive deliberations on diplomatic issues.

In response to an announcement by the South Korean government earlier on the day that it would return a letter Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda sent to South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, Noda expressed his displeasure, telling the session Seoul's action constituted "behavior utterly devoid of reason."

The act of sending back the prime minister's letter, which expressed regret over Lee's surprise visit to the Takeshima islands on Aug. 10, is, without a doubt, particularly disrespectful in terms of diplomatic norms and cannot be overlooked.


Diplomacy cast aside

No matter how different two nations' views on an issue may be, a bare minimum of etiquette in diplomatic relations must be upheld by each country. South Korea has now crossed the line with this recent development.

The government should file a firm protest with the South Korean government.

In doing so, however, it is important Japan conduct itself in full conformity with diplomatic protocol.

In the Budget Committee session, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba stressed that South Korea is "illegally occupying" the Sea of Japan islets, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.

Out of diplomatic consideration for South Korea, the administration of the Democratic Party of Japan has used the expression "rule without legal grounds" in reference to the matter since Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada served as foreign minister. Gemba is the first Cabinet minister to have used the phrase "illegal occupation" to refer to the issue.

The change of wording is seriously overdue.

There can be no denying that disproportionate concern by the DPJ administration about inciting conflict with a partner country, even over an issue affecting the nation's sovereignty, has led South Korea to harbor the misconception that Japan is a country that backs down easily.

Although the issue of compensation for the so-called comfort women in South Korea has been completely resolved, DPJ Policy Research Committee Chairman Seiji Maehara recently unveiled a plan to study the feasibility of "humanitarian measures" related to the matter. This may have caused South Korea to have false expectations about further steps from the Japanese side.

The government must do some serious soul-searching about the recent string of events in bilateral relations and carefully consider how to deal with the situation effectively.


Parties need to work together

In Thursday's Budget Committee meeting, Noda expressed his intention to seek an apology and a retraction of Lee's remarks demanding the Emperor apologize for the wartime past.

In a similar event, a spokesman of South Korea's Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry has demanded Gemba back down from his statement about South Korea's "illegal occupation" of the islets and pledge to avoid making similar remarks in the future.

Given the circumstances, Japan-South Korea relations have now begun a negative course.

Even if the two countries confront each other on the Takeshima issue, overall bilateral relations should be prevented from further deteriorating.

It is evidently important for both nations to continue working-level discussions, including negotiations for concluding a free trade agreement between Japan, China and South Korea.

During the Budget Committee session, the Liberal Democratic Party lashed out at the government for its failure to prevent a group of activists from Hong Kong from illegally landing on the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. It also criticized the government's failure to charge the activists on suspicion of obstructing Japanese officers from performing their duties.

It is highly desirable, however, for both the ruling and opposition camps to cooperate in steering the nation's diplomacy, particularly in the case of territorial disputes.

It would be regrettable for the LDP to make a point of finding fault with the government for its handling of territorial disputes.

There are a host of issues that must be addressed on a suprapartisan basis, such as the proactive expression of Japan's stance on territorial disputes to the international community and the improvement of history lessons in school education.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 24, 2012)
(2012年8月24日01時23分  読売新聞)


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