Abe Needs Better Diplomatic Approach

SK Pres. Park, USA Pres. Obama, Japan PM Abe
The Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week became the target of diplomatic criticism at home and abroad.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) pointed out the Abe administration has ''jeopardized the U.S. strategic interests in the region by taking steps that have aggravated historical animosities between Japan and its neighbors, particularly China and South Korea."

The CRS report reflects increasing annoyance among U.S. politicians about the Japanese government's historical revisionism that hinders the U.S.-Japan-Korea alliance against China and North Korea.

It also noted that the Abe government's investigation into the drafting process of the 1993 Kono Statement which admitted and apologized for the imperial Japanese army's involvement in coercing and coaxing Korean and other Asian girls and women to work in military brothels can be regarded as a move to "undermine the legitimacy of the apology."

The congressional report was seeing through and pointing out Tokyo's scheme to corrode the statement's credibility a preliminary step to retracting it  while pledging not to revise the first official apology on the surface, in what is seen as a typical dual play that marks the Abe government's diplomacy. Behind the rare direct criticism lies the U.S. Congress' frustration with Tokyo's obfuscation about historical issues.

It was a stinging rebuke to Prime Minister Abe who dedicated almost all of his U.N. speech to the issue of women's human rights but spoke not a word on the most egregious abuses committed by imperial Japan. Japanese nationalists should realize enough is enough. There are clear limits to the international community's overlooking of Tokyo's attempts to whitewash even deny Japan's wartime wrongs and atrocities.

It comes as a relief for Koreans that U.S. researchers and experts are drawing, if belatedly, a red line for Tokyo. We hope Washington will follow the private sector's footsteps. Doing so would not only help to enhance the U.S. strategic interests and promote the universal value of human rights but send a strong warning regarding Japanese nationalists' thinly-veiled intention to deny the post-war system created by the San Francisco Treaty of 1946, as shown in their attempt to revise Japan's peace constitution and become a ''normal" country.

In Japan, meanwhile, a survey of 3,000 college students showed that up to two thirds of respondents thought Tokyo should apologize and compensate the surviving victims of sexual slavery. A women's organization also blasted Abe, noting that his recent appointment of five women to the Cabinet posts cannot hide Tokyo's unrepentant stance on the issue of comfort women.

These developments show the way for Seoul to follow: approach the comfort women dispute as a human rights issue, and form a joint front with conscientious citizens, including those in Japan, until Tokyo makes an official apology and provides compensation for the surviving victims.

The Park Geun-hye administration should stick to this and Washington is also advised not to force Seoul to hold a summit with Tokyo unless the latter comes up with sincere and substantial measures on comfort women and other historical issues.

If President Park meets Prime Minister Abe without the latter's guarantee on this matter, it will result in a popular backlash, damaging the trilateral alliance beyond reparation for the foreseeable future.


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