Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to improve diplomatic relations with North Korea in his parliamentary address on Monday.
“I will aim at diplomatic normalization by settling the unfortunate past,” said Abe adding that he will closely work with the international community, including the U.S. and South Korea, to that end. But that was the only time Abe mentioned South Korea in his speech. There was no comment on improving bilateral relations between South Korea and Japan. It appears Japan has no intention of mending soured relations with South Korea, which has been aggravated by the recent radar dispute and the ruling by Korea’s top court that ordered Japanese companies to pay compensation to Korean victims of wartime forced labor.
Since he took office in December 2012, Abe has delivered a policy speech to the Diet every January and stressed the importance of South Korea in their diplomatic policies. But the emphasis on South Korea has weakened year by year. From his 2015 speech, Abe has not used the phrase, “share the basic values.” In last year’s speech, Abe omitted the phrase, “our most important neighbor that shares strategic interests” he had been using to refer to South Korea. This year, he went a step further by not mentioning South Korea at all.
According to a Japanese diplomatic source, there is an air of disillusionment with South Korea within the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.