Military ties with Japan
President must persuade National Assembly first
When an administration has what it thinks are necessary but unpopular things to do, it usually explains them to the people and seeks their consent. But the Lee Myung-bak administration pushes ahead with them stealthily and keeps them secret until someone else exposes what is happening. A case in point was its decision four years ago to resume the import of ill-favored U.S. beef.
Exactly the same thing happened Wednesday when a Cabinet meeting gave the go-ahead to the government’s scheduled signing of a military cooperation accord with Japan.
Most signs indicate that the government had wanted to handle this hot potato as furtively as possible. There were no press briefings before or after the weekly session and the item was not even tabled on preceding vice-ministerial meetings. The officials omitted the word ``military” to make it less noticeable, and the whole process was done _ intentionally we suspect _ when President Lee was abroad.
The foreign and defense ministry officials say the bilateral agreement on sharing military intelligence was crucial to properly dealing with escalating military threats from North Korea. If they were so confident of its necessity, why the apparent attempt at secrecy, then?
Both the officials and even the general public know that is not all there is. It is an open secret that the United States and Japan have recently stepped up efforts to contain the ever-increasing political and military influence of China in this part of the world, using North Korea as a welcome and convenient excuse. Washington and Tokyo have direly wanted to include Seoul in a trilateral alliance against Beijing, and the only problem remaining was Korean people’s resentment over Japan.
From the standpoint of South Korea, however, the proposed accord is neither justifiable nor much useful.
True, there are no eternal enemies or friends in international politics. But Japan can’t be Korea’s ``real” friend yet. And the reason is not emotional distance, but rather, reasonable doubt.
Japan has not genuinely repented of their brutal colonization of Korea, as seen in the bilateral dispute over wartime sex slaves _ an ultra-right Japanese insulted the comfort woman’s statue here and some Japanese are collecting signatures to nullify a U.S. Congress’ resolution calling for Tokyo to take proper steps regarding the comfort woman issue. Tokyo, which is pushing for nuclear armament, will also soon publish a defense white paper reiterating its territorial claims over Dokdo.
Is military cooperation possible with such an unrepentant and untrustworthy partner? Seoul downplays the accord as dealing with only a limited range of intelligence. But experts predict that is only the beginning and it will be a matter of time before it is turned a far more substantive cooperation agreement.
Currently, Korea’s trade with China is greater than that with the U.S. and Japan combined. Has the Lee administration had any deep thinking about the long-term impact of its strategic decision to estrange the nearby giant or was it just a shortsighted move to win over rival North Korea?
What this administration has done diplomatically the past four years can hardly assure its own people. President Lee and his national security team must persuade the National Assembly before proceeding further.