Koro Bessho, the Japanese ambassador to South Korea, believes that the two country’s bilateral relationship can still be mended, despite the recent issues facing them, including the territorial disputes over the Takeshima/Dokdo Islands and the perennial issue over World War II atrocities committed by the Japanese.
Bessho believes that since both countries are in transition to new governments, the two new leaders will be in a better position to tackle these sensitive issues. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier sent a special high level envoy to South Korea’s President-elect Park Geun-Hye as a gesture to show that he is serious in improving the strained ties that deteriorated under their predecessors, former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and outgoing President Lee Myung-bak.
Lee’s visit to Takeshima, the first by a South Korean president, was seen by Japan as a sign of their neighbour staking their claim on the islets that has been an issue of contention for the longest time. The right-wing Abe meantime courted controversy when it is rumored that he is considering revising the 1993 apology by Japan’s then-chief Cabinet secretary Yohei Kono that acknowledged and apologized for Japan forcing thousands of Asian women into sexual slavery (called “comfort women”) during the Japanese occupation in World War II.
Bessho defended the government’s plan to increase the defense budget, a first in 11 years, saying that it is needed to prepare for any eventuality, particularly the increasing tensions between China over another territory, the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Bessho downplayed the move, saying “We have been spending 1 percent or a little lower of our GDP for defense expenditure. That is a remarkably low figure for a growing economy”.[ via Yonhap News ]