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Fanning fears

Apr 19,2017
Japan is behaving nonsensically as the tension deepens on the Korean Peninsula. Our ministry of foreign affairs on Tuesday pointed out that Japan must refrain from making overblown statements about hypothetical conditions as they could affect the peace and security of the peninsula in a negative way. It is appropriate that the ministry expressed regrets about Japan’s overreactions to a potential emergency on the peninsula.

We can hardly blame Japan for taking measures necessary to protect its own nationals. Given the over 57,000 Japanese living in South Korea, in particular, the hard-line Shinzo Abe cabinet can justify its move to safeguard them no matter what. Nevertheless, it only helps fuel security concerns on the Korean Peninsula if Prime Minister Abe keeps exaggerating the crisis following similar remarks by his Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. If such measures are really needed to protect Japanese citizens living in South Korea, it is enough for Tokyo to set up plans quietly and implement them.

Abe’s repeated remarks even suggest some suspicious motivations. On Tuesday, Abe said that Japan was calling for the United States’ help in rescuing Japanese abductees in North Korea if some kind of conflict breaks out in the peninsula. That sounds like an attempt to take advantage of a neighbor’s pain for its own gain. The next day, Abe went so far as to say that North Korea could fire a missile loaded with lethal sarin gas, raising suspicions about his desire to reinforce Japan’s military power in the Pacific.

The bigger problem is Abe’s statement that Japan is considering the idea of sorting out those who really need to be protected by the Japanese government when a contingency really takes place on the peninsula. His presumptuous remarks went too far even if they are aimed at protecting Japanese nationals.

Tense Seoul-Tokyo relations have just begun to improve since Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Yasumasa Nagamine returned to Seoul on April 4 after a diplomatic spat between the countries over memorials to former sex slaves near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul and its consulate in Busan.Needless to say, Japan constitutes a crucial axis of the tripartite alliance among South Korea, the United States and Japan. Japan should be trying not to fuel tension on the peninsula. We urge the Abe cabinet to realize the gravity of the situation and be careful in its words and deeds not to provoke unnecessary security concerns.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 19, Page 34