Kyodo News reported Saturday that the Japanese government delivered its opposition to the U.S. on the initiative to add South Korea to the Group of Seven. It is said the Japanese government asserted that South Korea treats North Korea and China differently compared to G7 countries, calling South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s North Korea policy that prioritizes reconciliation and pro-China tendency into question. Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said it was “important to keep the G7 framework itself” on a TV program.
Japan’s opposition on U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to expand the G7 is not a surprise. The Japanese government has officially said “the U.S. and Japan are closely discussing.” But its true intention would have been different. The Japanese government would have thought that it did not have to step up as the U.K. and Canada opposed to Russia’s participation, but voiced its opposition when Trump’s plan became more concrete.
Japan would not want to lose its dominance as the only Asian member of the G7. Moreover, it would have worried about being in a hard place regarding various issues such as historical issues between South Korea and Japan as well as exports restrictions. Japan’s opposition is a matter of course in a situation where it has not found a solution to the conflict with South Korea triggered by its export restrictions imposed a year ago.
Japan’s attitude only harms its self-appointed title of “No. 1 in Asia.” Japan opposed to the appointment of former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the past. There is a growing sense of crisis in the Japanese cabinet as Chinese members recently have been appointed as a head of UN agencies. Japan is closely watching South Korea's Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee’s bid to lead the World Trade Organization, but this only highlights Japan’s shabby past, an island country that struggled to go beyond Asia.
Japan’s opposition is an obstacle to overcome. South Korea’s participation in the G7 is still a plan of the U.S. It would not pan out without a consensus of member countries, especially if Japan continues to oppose to it, however hard President Trump persists on it. The South Korean government should make efforts to find a solution to the conflicts between South Korea and Japan currently being neglected. To join the ranks of advanced countries, South Korea would have to make Japan at least not oppose to it.