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Where’s the evidence?

July 12,2019
Korea-bashing by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has gone too far. During a TV debate on Sunday, Abe said it was natural to believe that South Korea could have broken sanction rules on North Korea, given its trajectory of breaking the inter-government agreement on wartime reparations. A state leader publicly accusing its neighbor of violating international rules should have strong evidence.

Koichi Hagiuda, executive acting secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party in the Abe cabinet, said, “We cannot know whereabouts of the chemicals exported to South Korea,” implying that some of the chemicals shipped to South Korea could have ended up in North Korea for weapons development. South Korea imports a huge amount of hydrogen fluoride, one of the three materials under Japan’s export curb. Without specifying the source of his accusation, he said the shipments could have headed to North Korea to make chemical weapons. Seoul vehemently protested the “groundless” claim from Tokyo and its spread of bogus information to build up rationale for its retaliatory moves.

On television, Abe called Korea “a state that does not keep its promises” and urged it to act “according to common sense.” He also ridiculed President Moon Jae-in of having little influence over North Korea. Abe failed to demonstrate the minimum civility towards another country and publicly shamed its neighbor and ally. He was resorting to provoking hostility in the people of the two nations with little regards to resolve the row diplomatically. As Abe represents the worlds’ third largest economy, he must act befitting the power.

His harsh rhetoric may be aimed at silencing the brewing criticism in Japan over his retaliatory actions. By floating the suspicion about a potential behind-the-scene trade between the two Koreas, he could build up the cause for his actions for political gain in the upcoming Upper House election despite apparent damage to Japan’s economy and national dignity as a champion of free trade. He may also be aiming to divide opinions in South Korea by provoking ultra-rightists who are extremely disgruntled by the liberal Moon administration’s over-indulgence with North Korea.

Korea should not tolerate such obnoxious disinformation. Seoul’s credibility is at stake if some in the international community believe the fake news about South Korea shipping chemicals to the North. Seoul must logically confront Tokyo for the grounds of its accusation or demand a formal apology and retraction of the accusation and the irrational export curbs if it is groundless.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 11, Page 30