Posted : 2018-01-12 16:44
Updated : 2018-01-12 19:26

Inter-Korea talks unwelcome only in Japan

By Kim Bo-eun

While the rest of the international community welcomes the resumption of the inter-Korean dialogue and North Korea's decision to attend the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Japan has shown a skeptical stance toward the talks.

Expectations are high among countries that the agreement between the two Koreas to resume talks will reduce regional tension and lead to meaningful multilateral dialogue on tackling the North Korean nuclear issue.

There have been welcoming statements from the United Nations Security Council, the International Olympic Committee and the governments of the United States, China, Russia as well as some European nations.

However, Japan has raised doubts over the effectiveness of the inter-Korean talks, saying the talks could negate international sanctions on North Korea.

The two Koreas agreed for the North to take part in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and to resume inter-Korean military talks, Tuesday.

Following the agreement, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, "We are maintaining close contact with South Korea and the U.S. including with heads of state and there is no change in our stance of maximizing sanctions against North Korea for it to alter its policies."

Japan's news media were more outright in outlining the outcome of the talks.

"The North has taken the lead in talks between the Koreas by creating a reconciliatory mood," the Yomiuri Shimbun said. "This is aimed at weakening the international net encircling Pyongyang led by the U.S."

The Asahi Shimbun stated, "This is a plan to create a hole in the international net which encircles (North Korea), and earn time to complete its nuclear and missile weapons, by mutual yielding with President Moon Jae-in who is proactive toward talks with the North."

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun said, "Pyongyang's calls were mainly reflected in the joint press statement. It gave zero response to the international community's calls for denuclearization."

Japan is seen as not wanting to take chances, after Pyongyang launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) over its territory and conducted a nuclear test last year.

Hardline stance on 2 Koreas

Shinzo Abe's hard-line stance toward North Korea is seen to have helped his party win a majority in Japan's general election in October. The victory came amid Abe's falling approval rates due to a personal corruption scandal involving the discounted purchase of a site for a nationalist school where his wife was invited to serve as honorary principal.

Pundits say Abe utilized growing public anxiety over North Korea's military threats.

While Tokyo has no formal diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, ties with Seoul have become increasingly strained of late, due to controversy over an agreement reached on wartime sex slaves between the two states.

In the deal struck in December 2015, the two countries agreed to put the long-disputed issue to rest, with Japan providing South Korean victims 1 billion yen in government funds. Civic groups representing sex slave victims and liberal politicians in South Korea have called for the agreement to be scrapped, stating the victims' voices were ignored.

South Korea's foreign ministry said the deal was flawed and failed to reflect the opinions of victims, according to results of an investigation into the deal by a panel within the ministry.

After results were unveiled in Dec. 27, the ministry announced its stance on the deal on Tuesday.

"The government will create its own fund to assist victims, and decide whether to return the 1 billion yen fund after negotiating the matter with Japan," Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said.

Abe on Friday told reporters in Tokyo "Japan cannot accept Korea's new proposal regarding the deal."

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono also told reporters in Tokyo that Japan would not accept any demands from South Korea to modify the agreement, following the South Korean government's announcement on Tuesday.

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