In today’s Korea Times, we are treated to—sit down for it—complaining, particularly about how the US pivot towards Asia is putting Korea in a tough spot because a) Korea is being forced to choose between Washington and Beijing and b) Washington isn’t putting enough pressure on the Japanese to apologize:
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is thriving amid growing uncertainty in the region.
Experts say the trend is likely to continue, unless the United States reprimands Japan for denying its wartime history, for instance.
However, the U.S. engrossed in a duel with rival China can’t afford to alienate Tokyo.
Rather, it is encouraging Abe to become bolder, which he has done.
The end of the piece quotes from a recent column by Stanford’s Daniel Sneider in the WaPo calling on Washington to help Japan do the right thing and resolve its historical issues with Korea. For what it’s worth, I agree that a satisfactory resolution to historical issues between Korea and Japan would be in everybody’s interest—well, everybody’s except possibly China’s. Maybe there’s even a role the United States can play in encouraging the Japanese to be more forthcoming.
There are several problems with this, though. Firstly, Koreans are already prone to doubt the sincerity of Japanese apologies, and I’d imagine they’d be even more keen to doubt them if it appears Japan was being “forced” to apologize by America. Sure, they’d enjoy the sight of Japan being humbled, but any apology would come off as forced and insincere. Secondly, even if Washington leaned on Japan to confront its past, there’s no guarantee Tokyo would do so, especially considering that a lot of the folk driving Japanese diplomatic hamfistedness towards Korea seem to believe the only real war criminal in the Pacific was the United States.
There’s something else to the complaints, too, namely, the lack of compartmentalization. Historical issues are one thing. Declaring large swaths of the East China Sea your ADIZ is quite another. Prioritize.
Japan’s Kyodo News is reporting that Japan’s Self-Defense Force (or as we like to call it with a giggle, the jawidae) not only has spies in Korea, but has also sent them without telling the Japanese prime minister:
Japan’s Self-Defense Force operates clandestine intelligence-gathering teams in South Korea and other countries without informing its civilian government, Kyodo News reported Wednesday.
The teams are operated independently by the force without notifying the prime minister or defense minister, Kyodo quoted a former army chief and top defense intelligence official as saying, flying in the face of democratic control of the armed forces.
The force’s Ground Staff Office formed a spying team that sets up bases overseas to gather intelligence. All members undergo training in espionage and counterintelligence.
Huh. Japanese military forces operating independently of Japan’s civilian government. How could that possibly go wrong?
And finally, in the Chosun Ilbo’s gripe of the day, some ruling party lawmakers are beginning to grumble that Korea is getting a much worse deal on the F-35 than Japan. In particular, while Japan will be allowed to make most of its F-35s, Korea will be forced to import finished products from the United States.