According to Junichi Ihara, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry‘s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, bilateral relations between South Korea and Japan should not be affected by the countries’ continuing disputes over the history of Japan’s colonization of Korea. The Japanese official said this on Wednesday in front of South Korean reporters who were visiting the ministry. Japan has had long-standing issues in its diplomatic relations with South Korea, as the dealings between both countries are definitely colored by different perspectives on the past coming from both sides.
But Ihara was still staunch in his stand, saying that “History issues should not be translated into diplomatic issues. Japan and South Korea should cherish and develop their current relationship rather than fight over past affairs.” Referring to the controversial sex slavery issue that still continues to be a thorn on the relations between the East Asian neighbors, he added this: “For example, when disputing facts about the comfort women issue, the countries should leave the fact finding to historians rather than raising diplomatic issues.” These comments come as the relationship between Tokyo and Seoul has probably hit the worst level in decades due to the two countries’ unbridgeable stances over Japan’s war-time atrocities, in addition to the Japanese government’s renewed claims to the Takeshima Islands, which are controlled by South Korea as the Dokdos.
Many South Korean men and women were coerced to work for Japan during the Second World War, but the Japanese government has continually claimed that all war-time damages for South Korea and its citizens was settled in the countries’ 1965 bilateral treaty. Under the treaty, the nations restored diplomatic ties and Japan provided a sum of money to South Korea, which was struggling to recover its war-torn economy. Ihara says that Japan recognizes the pains it has inflicted on several Asian countries and the Abe administration shares the previous governments’ repentant stances toward the issue. “The Abe administration never denies Japan’s past aggression and colonial control of some Asian nations,” the official said, dismissing some accusations that the sitting government is trying to whitewash its past.
[via Yonhap News]