« ミュージカル『女海賊ビアンカ』のサウンドトラックが前倒しで発売されます | トップページ | 高齢人口25% 独り暮らし対策は待ったなし »

2014年4月19日 (土)


April 18, 2014
EDITORIAL: New Tokyo-Seoul talks should lead to serious efforts to mend ties

Senior diplomats of Japan and South Korea held talks in Seoul on April 16 in a fresh effort to settle the thorny issue of “comfort women.”

Since there are wide and deep disagreements on the issue, the bureau chiefs of foreign ministries of the two countries could do little but confirm the basic positions of their respective governments. They reportedly agreed to hold another meeting in Tokyo next month.

There will be many twists and turns in the process of working out an agreement. But we welcome the fact that the administrations of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye have started direct talks to repair the soured ties.

The two governments have both recognized the need to tackle this issue. This is at least a starting point for efforts to change the situation. Tokyo and Seoul should take advantage of the window of opportunity opened by the talks to lay a solid foundation for improving the overall relations between them.

What opened the door to the new bilateral talks was a meeting between Abe, Park and U.S. President Barack Obama last month in the Netherlands. Obama brokered the summit, which brought Abe and Park together for their first face-to-face meeting since they took office more than a year earlier.

The latest talks between the director-generals of the concerned ministry bureaus of Japan and South Korea had been arranged as part of the deal for this three-way summit.

Arranging the talks, however, was by no means easy. South Korea demanded that the talks be focused on the issue of comfort women, while Japan insisted on discussing other important issues between the two nations as well. They include the territorial dispute over the Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan and policy responses to North Korea’s missile and nuclear arms programs.

Still, the two sides agreed to hold the meeting because of diplomatic pressure coming from Obama’s scheduled visits to both Japan and South Korea next week. Obama has been urging both countries to patch up their relations.

As it turned out, the first round of talks focused on the issue of comfort women. But a wide range of issues will be discussed from the second round onward, according to reports.

The primary bone of contention between Tokyo and Seoul in their row over comfort women is how much “responsibility” Japan as a nation should take for the plight of these women, who were forced to provide sex to wartime Japanese soldiers.

The South Korean government demands that Japan acknowledge its “legal liability” for the suffering of these women. Its position is apparently influenced by the tough stances of citizen organizations supporting former comfort women. But Japan claims that all related legal issues were settled when the two countries restored their diplomatic relationships in 1965.

Japan and South Korea, however, came close to a political settlement of the dispute in autumn 2012, when both countries were governed by their respective previous administrations. According to an Asahi Shimbun report that quoted people who were involved in that matter in both governments, Japan at the time proposed that the Japanese ambassador to South Korea would offer an apology to former comfort women and that the Japanese government would fund humanitarian assistance programs for the victims.

The proposed solution failed to materialize because of the dissolution of the Lower House for a snap election in Japan. Now the Park administration wants a similar proposal from Tokyo.

The Abe administration has recognized that humanitarian relief measures are needed by the victims and has been holding behind-the-scenes negotiations with South Korea.

The Japanese government should take all possible measures to support the victims. The South Korean government, for its part, should do more to build a national consensus on a realistic solution to the issue by talking with citizen groups.

There are many other pending issues between Japan and South Korea. The leaders of Japan and South Korea should expand channels of dialogue and provide effective leadership to build a truly future-oriented relationship between the two countries.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 18


« ミュージカル『女海賊ビアンカ』のサウンドトラックが前倒しで発売されます | トップページ | 高齢人口25% 独り暮らし対策は待ったなし »





« ミュージカル『女海賊ビアンカ』のサウンドトラックが前倒しで発売されます | トップページ | 高齢人口25% 独り暮らし対策は待ったなし »