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China-South Korea summit clearly shows 'united front against Japan'

Publication Date : 26-03-2014

 

It seems fair to say that China and South Korea have demonstrated clearly their “united front against Japan” on history-related issues.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Park Geun-hye met for talks in a suburb of The Hague where they highlighted the significance of a memorial hall dedicated to Korean independence activist Ahn Jung Geun in a train station in Harbin, China.

According to South Korean officials, Xi told Park he had given “direct instructions” for building the hall, while Park responded that the hall would strengthen ties between the two peoples.

We believe that what Xi offered Park was a united front in taking a hard-line policy against Japan, a policy that has support of the South Korean people, in a bid to draw the attention of the Seoul government.

Ahn Jung Geun assassinated Hirobumi Ito, Japan’s first prime minister. For Japan, the two nations’ praise for the opening of a hall dedicated to such a person is unacceptable.

Xi appears to have sought to drive a wedge in cooperative ties among Japan, South Korea and the United States ahead of their tripartite summit scheduled for Tuesday on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit. The Xi-Park talks threw cold water on the much-anticipated summit, which comes against a backdrop of deteriorating Japan-South Korea relations—a summit made possible through US mediation efforts.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga described the exchanges between Xi and Park and the praise Beijing and Seoul have expressed for Ahn as “founded on one-sided assessment” of history. He also pointed out quite reasonably that such public statements do not help to build peace and cooperation in the region.

A new anti-Japan symbol

During their talks, Xi also told Park of a “memorial stone” that China is constructing in Xian in Shaanxi Province, the city where a Korean anti-Japanese resistance force known as the “Korean Liberation Army” was based during the period of Japanese colonial rule. Park reportedly asked Xi to erect the memorial. Although there are few details about the resistance force, the memorial is certain to become a new symbol for anti-Japan sentiment.

There is also cause for concern that Park has been keeping step with China. Although she has not yet held talks with Japanese leaders, Park has met with Xi four times since her inauguration. She probably thinks stronger relations with China are important for her country’s North Korea policy and economic cooperation.

In contrast, she has effectively rejected Japan-South Korea summit meetings by imposing conditions concerning so-called comfort women and other areas of contention.

It is quite clear that neither the Japan-US alliance nor the US-South Korean alliance—both partnerships in which United States is the keystone—will function effectively without good Japan-South Korean relations.

The prospect of further strengthening Seoul-Beijing ties over history issues is worrisome.

Late last month, a Chinese court for the first time accepted a lawsuit in which former Chinese workers who were forcibly brought to Japan to work in Japanese companies during World War II are demanding apologies and compensation from the companies. Similar lawsuits have been filed in South Korea by former forced laborers.

This type of suit threatens to undermine the foundation of pledges made by Japan and by the two nations upon the normalisation of diplomatic relations, and cannot be accepted.

It is important for Japan to make its case and demonstrate the legitimacy of its legal stance, not only to China and South Korea, but to the international community as a whole.

 

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