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The Rekindling of a Diplomatic Feud

Posted March. 31, 2005 23:36,   


With every round of verbal jabs and counterpunches thrown back and forth across the sea by ranking officials against their neighboring country, diplomatic discord between Korea and Japan seems to be hitting new heights.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the foreign ministry spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung countered Japanese claims that President Roh Moo-hyun had kept quiet concerning Japan’s reluctance to revisit the country’s colonial themes during his meeting with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Ibusuki, Japan last December. Lee clarified that during the summit meeting, President Roh had relayed his desire to avoid the kind of protruding and unsolicited remarks that would disserve Korea-Japan relations. The president had identified Japanese sincerity as the key to resolving longstanding cross-sea tensions over the contents of Japan’s history text books and the visiting of the Yasukuni Shrine by the country’s leadership.

He noted that Japanese foreign minister Nobutaka Machimura had been present and aware during the length of the summit meeting, and expressed deep regret that distorted facts were presented nonetheless. Lee denounced Machimura for divulging the contents of confidential discussions between two heads of state, saying that such statements have no place in the designs to improve mutual relations between the two countries.

The remarks by the foreign ministry spokesman is a direct rebuttal of Machimura’s criticism last Wednesday that President Roh had deflected a chance to discuss the lingering topics during his engagement with his Japanese counterpart, rather choosing to bring up issues like the visitation of the Yasukuni Shrine in a public message directed towards the Korean public.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon, in a subscription to Lee’s remarks, told reporters on Thursday that President Roh had been unequivocal in addressing the Yasukuni issue during the summit, and discounted Machimura’s statements as being entirely separated from the truth.

Jong-Koo Yoon jkmas@donga.com