Seoul, Tokyo seek ‘exit strategy’ over trade row

13-Dec-2019 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

South Korea and Japan are seeking an “exit strategy” in ending the bilateral friction ahead of the summit between the leaders of the two countries planned for December 24 in Chengdu, China.

Cheong Wa Dae confirmed President Moon Jae-in and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe will hold their summit on the sidelines of the upcoming 9th China-Republic of Korea-Japan Trilateral Summit to be held in the Chinese city.

The key topic to be discussed during the Moon-Abe encounter is how to promptly end the bilateral friction with Japan.

More precisely, Japanese politicians were reviewing National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang’s earlier proposals to compensate the surviving South Korean victims of wartime forced labour, according to former Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, who is also a member of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and a senior member of the Japan-South Korea Parliamentarians’ Union.

Abe’s close aide Takaya Imai was hoping to mend the worsening bilateral relations as soon as possible as he said he has “understanding” about Moon’s proposal, Kawamura said Wednesday during a lecture in Tokyo. Kawamura said he expects the bilateral relations would “move forward,” if the two countries manage to reach an agreement.

Kawamura also said the issues of fully restoring the general Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and putting South Korea back on Japan’s “whitelist” of countries receiving preferential treatment in trade should be dealt “simultaneously” during the upcoming Moon-Abe summit. But he added that the two countries are not yet at a stage where they can have “confidence.”

As the nuclear threat from North Korea has heightened recently at escalating tensions between North Korea and the United States ahead of the “end of the year” deadline for their negotiations set by the North, the US, South Korea and Japan have emphasized the importance of their trilateral security cooperation. As Japan is hosting the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, it is actively seeking to reduce tensions in the region with the nuclear threat from the North being a big hurdle.

The Japanese government is also closely monitoring the possible replacement of South Korea’s prime minister. President Moon plans to replace the PM as Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) are shifting their priority to preparations for next year’s general elections. Kawamura said he would visit Seoul for a meeting with South Korea’s next prime minister.

But the possibility of resolving the conflict completely remains uncertain when there is a strong backlash by South Korean civic groups over Speaker Moon’s proposal.

Civic groups have continued rallies in various places including in front of the National Assembly and the former Japanese embassy site in Seoul. They condemned the bill for not calling for an official apology from the Japanese government.

Moon’s proposal bill encompasses financial contributions by the two governments and companies of the two countries to set up a compensation fund that would be used not only for the forced labour victims but also victims of Japan’s wartime sex slavery. It also proposes to include voluntary donations for the fund by citizens of the two countries.

On Wednesday, the1,417th weekly protest against Japan’s wartime sex slavery drew hundreds of protesters to the “comfort woman” statue outside the former Japanese embassy site, as they called for “nullification” of the speaker’s bill. They said the issues of human rights and history should not be used as a tool for political negotiations.

While the speaker has stressed the importance of “future-oriented” Korea-Japan relations, some lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties have expressed their “full support” for him, according to his office.

The lawmakers included Rep. Kang Chang-il of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, who heads the South Korea-Japan Parliamentarians’ Union; Rep. Chun Jung-bae, a member of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee; Rep. Kim Dong-cheol of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party, a member of the National Assembly Environment and Labour Committee; and Rep. Hong Il-pyo of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, a member of the National Assembly Strategy and Finance Committee.


Category: Korea

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