Recent nuclear missile launches by North Korea have led to a critical situation on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. The situation calls for Korea, the United States, and Japan to cooperate closely and act in lock-step as they respond to the crisis. But, Japan, when we look at its recent diplomatic track record, seems to be acting in a contrary way. Japan has, in fact, been making mischief in the relations between the U.S. and South Korea, while pretending to be a messenger between the two nations. Furthermore, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to be using the current North Korean crisis to strengthen his hold on power and to push Japan to become a nation capable of waging war.
In response to the South Korean government’s concerns that inaccurate reports in the Japanese press are making close cooperation among the three nations difficult, the White House is said to have informed its counterpart in South Korea, the Cheong Wa Dae, that it will warn the Japanese government not to distort the contents of the recent three-way meeting among South Korea, the U.S., and Japan.*
Fuji News Network has recently reported that President Trump, in his phone conversation with Prime Minister Abe, criticized the South Korean government for acting like a beggar in pleading with North Korea for talks. It is established diplomatic protocol that the contents of phone conversations between heads of state are not disclosed except in extremely special cases. Even if it were the case that President Trump was not satisfied with the current South Korean approach to the North and said something undiplomatic and bombastic, there is no good reason, other than having a calculated political purpose, for the Japanese government to deliberately leak sensitive information to the press. Japan seems to be trying to get closer to the U.S. at the expense of strained U.S. – South Korean relations by pointing out the differences in the two nations’ approaches to the North Korean situation. With a report that the leaked information about the phone conversation to Fuji News was not even true, it becomes even more clear that the Japanese side has acted disingenuously.
In addition, on Sept. 23, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said that he expects more than 100,000 North Korean refugees to enter Japan on an emergency basis, and that he is seriously considering whether to arrest or kill refugees who are armed. This is a shockingly inappropriate statement coming from a high-level Japanese official, which seems to suggest that a war is likely to break out immediately in the Korean Peninsula.
It is a fact that the North Korean crisis has revived the dying political fortunes of Prime Minister Abe. His approval ratings, which reached a low of 20 percent with the scandal involving his wife, Akie, have increased to over 50 percent. The Abe administration is trying to strengthen its political base by creating fear and anxiety over the possible worst-case scenario on the Korean peninsula. Abe has called an early general election a full one year before his term expires; and after the election, he hopes to amend the Japanese constitution to enable Japan to wage war. It is regrettable that Abe’s primary objective in the current crisis is not to be constructive but to use the crisis for his political ends. It appears that, with Abe’s mischief, it will take a long time for South Korea and Japan to regain confidence in their relations with each other.
*Editor’s note: The Cheong Wa Dae or Blue House is the executive office and official residence of the South Korean head of state.