As Japanese and South Korean Relations Thaw North Korea Seeks To Increase Tensions
The threat that North Korea poses as it intensifies its nuclear and ballistic missile development has become a unifying element for Japan and South Korea. The two East Asian countries will link up with the United States to conduct joint missile defense drills by the end of June. The exercises, which will take place in Hawaii, will focus on the detection and tracking of North Korean missiles but will not include practice in missile interception.
The collaboration for the anti-missile exercises was done within the framework of an intelligence-sharing agreement that the three countries signed in December 2014. In that agreement, Tokyo and Seoul, wary of each other because of unresolved issues concerning World War II, would only share information through the United States and would not deal directly with each other.
But the historical hostilities that were the biggest stumbling blocks to promoting bilateral ties eased up recently when both nations reached the now legendary December 2015 agreement. The “comfort women” issue was finally and irrevocably addressed on the following mutually agreed-upon conditions:
Japan recognizes its role in the suffering of the women in during WWII and will pay the sum of $8.3 million to the government of South Korea for the creation of a foundation to support the comfort women.
South Korea will talk with the civic groups for the removal of the statue of a girl in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. The statue is a symbol for the comfort women of World War II.
The two countries will refrain from issuing statements that are critical of the other in international media.
North Korea (officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) was not pleased with the developments and is now trying to sow discord between Tokyo and Seoul. Pro-North Korean groups have rallied against the agreement and voiced their opposition to the conditions attached to the deal. Chong Dae Hyup, an organization purporting to support the comfort women but is suspected of having left-leaning ties, has exploited the agreement to incite people’s nationalistic sentiments against Japan. Its representative, Yoon Mee-hyang, has accused Park’s administration of destroying their 25 years’ progress in settling the comfort women issue and they will seek legal options to nullify the agreement.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA,) the state-owned media of DPRK released a wordy statement titled “KCNA’s Indictment;” in part, it said, “So called the recent ‘agreement’ on Japanese military’s sex slaves issue was the fruit of conspiracy, which resulted from the U.S. pulling the strings behind the backs of Japan and South Korea to enhance its alliance (in East Asia region.)
Another pro-North Korea group based in Japan denounced South Korea’s submission to Japan. Ri Tong Je, chairman of the Association of Koreans in Japan for Peaceful Reunification called the agreement as Seoul’s connivance with the criminal moves of Japan, hence paving the way for its reinvasion. Calling it a “humiliating diplomacy,” the group’s statement was carried by the North Korean-leaning newspaper Chosun Sinbo.
But North Korea’s ongoing nuclear tests and long-range ballistic missile launchings cannot be ignored. Any lingering animosity has to be set aside in favor of strategic integration of alliances and policies to augment its security position against Pyongyang. Combined condemnation and increased sanctions may reduce its capacity to further advance its technology and give denuclearization a second thought.
On the western front, the Korean American Civic Groups for “Comfort Women” gathered at Los Angeles’ Westwood Federal Building to push a petition for the termination of US Deputy Secretary of Defense for his role in the successful conclusion Japan – South Korea deal.
Another organization, the Korean American Forum of California whose goal is to publicize and raise aid for the comfort women, is campaigning to send emails to the state’s Department of Education to include the issue in the world history course for Grade 10. It is not satisfied with the agreement Seoul entered into with Tokyo, contending that the apology was insufficient.
While the two countries have banded together with the United States for a trilateral sharing of delicate military information, North Korea is taunting them with more missile tests and threats. In its view, the joint military drill, a regular event between South Korea and the US, and now with the participation of Japan, is hindering their move for inter-Korean peace and reunification. According to them, their nuclear program activities are simply a response to the other nations’ provocation.
With DPRK’s obstinate stand on continuing its nuclear developments, its disregard for the UN sanctions and its unrealistic conditions for a united Korean peninsula, any talk between Seoul and Pyongyang will only end in an impasse. North Korea’s only recourse is to stir issues that could cause tensions between South Korea and Japan to rise again. It is also the key if South Korea, which is neighboring country of North Korea, won’t fall into a North Korean’s trap.
Guest Author: Lolita Di