Japan must obtain Seoul’s consent to exercise the right to collective self-defense in an emergency on the Korean Peninsula, a South Korean government official said. This was the stance made clear by South Korean officials, led by Korean National Security Office chief Kim Jang-soo, in a meeting in the United States with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The South Korean side said that lifting Japan’s self-imposed ban on the right to collective self-defense “is an issue the Japanese citizens should decide.”
One South Korean official said: “It would be unacceptable for (Japan to) stretch its interpretation of the right, and (exercise the right) to address issues involving the Korean Peninsula and sovereignty of South Korea.” The South Koreans made a strong position that the opinions of Seoul must be considered should Japan exercise that right. Seoul also asked Washington to give sufficient consideration to the South Korean stance when the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation are revised, according to the South Korean government official.
This position is borne out of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push towards concentrating Japan’s attention on the security situation in Northeast Asia. Abe has indicated that he wants to change the government’s interpretation of the pacifist Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. Lifting the ban would mean that Japan could launch counter-strikes against a third country that attacks an ally. The United States said it welcomes Japan’s recent efforts to lift the ban. But South Korea remains wary, given Japan’s 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
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