Posted : 2012-12-24 14:50
Updated : 2012-12-24 14:50

Tension between Korea, Japan to continue under new gov'ts: experts

Diplomatic tensions between Korea and Japan are expected to continue under their incoming governments despite what appeared to be a peace gesture from Tokyo's next leader, experts in Seoul said Monday.

The neighboring nations have yet to come to terms with Japan's 1910-1945 forced occupation of the Korean Peninsula as Koreans still harbor deep resentment toward Tokyo's brutal colonial rule.

Tensions peaked in August after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited the South's easternmost islets of Dokdo in an unprecedented move that angered Tokyo. Japan has repeatedly laid claim to Dokdo, a legacy of its colonial rule.

Shortly after conservative contender Park Geun-hye was elected as Korea's next president last Wednesday, Japan's incoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tried to seek improved bilateral ties in a personal letter delivered by a special envoy, according to Park's ruling Saenuri Party and Japanese media reports.

The envoy, former Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga, asked the Saenuri Party on Thursday for a meeting with Park last weekend, but the president-elect turned down the request, citing scheduling issues, according to a Park aide, who declined to be identified.

The aide said Nukaga expressed his understanding and the party suggested a meeting after Abe takes office this Wednesday.

The incoming Japanese Prime Minister and his Liberal Democratic Party won the Dec. 16 parliamentary election after campaigning on a far-right platform that included pledges to more aggressively lay claim to Dokdo and revise a former government's apology for Japan's sexual slavery of Korean women during World War II.

Still, the aide said the rejection "had no political background."

Experts warned that relations between Seoul and Tokyo are not likely to improve anytime soon.

"In general, Seoul-Tokyo relations have shown signs of improvement at the start of a new administration, but this time, it could be very difficult," said Chun Chae-sung, a professor of political science and diplomacy at Seoul National University. "The Park administration will have to manage Japan-related matters so that they don't become an issue in domestic politics."

Chin Chang-soo, a senior analyst on Korea-Japan affairs for the Sejong Institute think tank, also called for wise management of diplomatic relations with Japan.

"Japan has a tendency to think that it should at least (mend ties with) Korea in order to gain some benefits in its diplomacy toward East Asia because it can't do much about China," he said. "We should also solve our historical issues (with Japan) without worsening bilateral ties."

Japan and China are in a territorial dispute over a separate set of islets in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Korea's president-elect made clear in a news conference last month that Dokdo is not a subject for negotiation and urged Japan to "squarely face" the matter for their two countries' future. (Yonhap)

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