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Continued Seoul-Tokyo disputes will deal internal damage

Continued Seoul-Tokyo disputes will deal internal damage

Posted August. 02, 2019 07:30,   

Updated August. 02, 2019 07:30


South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha had a meeting on Thursday with his Japanese counterpart Kono Taro on the sideline of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Bangkok, but it only served as an opportunity to reaffirm the gaping diplomatic distance between Seoul and Tokyo. Minister Kang called Japan’s economic retaliation “a breach of WTO regulations” that violates the principles of free trade, demanding withdrawal, but she failed to get any good answer from Kono. It is reported that Minister Kang conveyed the message to Japan that the Korean government will consider GSOMIA as one of potential responses should Japan make the choice to exclude Korea from the “white list,” countries on which benefit from streamlined export procedures.

The Korean government says that Japan is likely to pass the revised law on exports and trade today at Cabinet council, which will exclude Korea from the “white list.” The atmosphere surrounding the Abe administration is pointing to “railroading” the law as well. The remarks from some of the closest officials to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seen in the news or the fact that Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai refused to meet Korean lawmakers during their visit to Japan, is all telling the same story. A number of world-renowned news outlets are ramping up criticism against Abe for fueling bad blood and warning its potential side-effects on the global economy, but Tokyo is turning a deaf ear.

Against this backdrop, Washington has proposed a “standstill agreement,” posing as a more proactive mediator in the disputes between Korea and Japan. This journalist hopes the meeting scheduled on Friday afternoon will yield a breakthrough between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the two foreign ministers from Seoul and Tokyo.

If Japan chooses to exclude Korea from the “white list,” the measure will be implemented after 21 days of preparations. The consequences are beyond one’s head with some 1,100 types of products facing trouble for import. Many experts predict this might lead to an absolute rupture of relations between the two neighbors. As it happens, Korea is at a juncture where the importance of cooperation among Korea, the U.S., and Japan, is stressed more than ever in the security landscape of North East Asia. This journalist sincerely hopes that Japan will not commit the error of brushing away Seoul from the list. And even if it does make such a rash decision, Korea and Japan must continue to stick to diplomatic solutions. Attrition of war between the two neighbors will lead to internal damage to both parties, and we need to stop to think about who can smile at the end of this war.