Military pact with Japan
Scrap ill-advised accord; sack relevant ministers
To the relief of most Koreans, the foreign ministry postponed the signing of its first military pact with Japan, Friday. Now that the government has avoided the worst with the last-minute turnaround, it should bring the matter to the National Assembly for discussion from the ground up.
Yet it would be a folly if Cheong Wa Dae, as reports say, tries to push ahead with the military cooperation accord with Japan after undergoing what it thinks as the minimal formality of a parliamentary briefing.
Seoul should scrap the ill-perceived scheme eventually or shelve it indefinitely ― at least until Tokyo obtains sufficient qualifications.
As this page pointed out earlier, the Korea-Japan agreement to share and protect classified military data has neither political and historical justification nor much practical benefits for Seoul, especially as far as their ostensible reason of having to jointly deal with the North Korean threat is concerned.
In purely technical terms, for instance, South Korea has abundant and valuable human intelligence (humint) about North Korea to give to Japan, while Tokyo has not much signal intelligence (sigint) about Pyongyang that Washington doesn’t have. In short, South Korea can get all the signal intelligence from the United States if Seoul’s biggest ally agrees to provide it.
Far more significant is whether Japan can be a reliable military partner. Nothing shows this better than Tokyo’s unchanging insistence on Dokdo. More than a century ago, Japan occupied these volcanic outcroppings in the body of water between the two nations, signaling the start of its scheme to colonize Korea. That Tokyo resumed its territorial claims over the rocky outlets a few decades ago indicates the country’s is not just refusing to repent on its historical wrongs but is even willing to repeat them all over if circumstances allow.
Government officials and conservatives who call for separating past history from present national interests should realize a military partnership with such an unrepentant and unreliable partner is not just unthinkable but will prove to be an actual threat to national security. Japan invaded Korea more than a century ago while North Korea invaded South Korea 62 years ago. But the time difference of less than 40 years should be no reason for South Koreans to ignore the historical irony of fighting with the other victim of division with the help of an initial divider.
No less questionable is why Korea, a peninsular country unlike the island nation of Japan, should unequivocally commit itself as part of an oceanic force at the risk of antagonizing a continental force. Wouldn’t it be best if the Korean Peninsula plays the role of a bridge that facilitates communication and cooperation? Is this because history repeats itself or Koreans have too short a memory span? A possible answer: In what has become common knowledge among people here thanks to the Wiki leaks that cite the elder brother of President Lee Myung-bak, the incumbent South Korean leader is ``pro-U.S. and pro-Japanese to the bone.”
Again, the ongoing controversy about military cooperation with Japan should have less to do with lingering popular resentment about bitter historical experiences or the upcoming presidential elections, in which the strongest ruling party contender has a father who was also suspected of being another pro-Japanese leader to the bone, than it is a wrong, or at least premature, move.
Seoul should not push for it unless and until Tokyo truly repents historical wrongs and withdraws its claims over Dokdo.
President Lee must apologize to the people and dismiss ministers responsible to show his own repentance for the unwarranted move and undemocratic way he handled it. Anything less will not keep his already diminishing popularity and the public’s trust in him from totally evaporating.