Editorial: Japan, South Korea need to unite, not fight

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As two nations directly confronted by North Korea's military threat, Japan and South Korea should pursue extensive cooperation in the diplomatic and military fields.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae In have held talks in Vladivostok, Russia. They agreed on a plan to strengthen cooperation aimed at realizing the adoption of a new U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution against North Korea.

"We need to bring the pressure to an entirely different level," Abe said, indicating he wants the adoption of tough sanctions including a halt to the supply of crude oil to North Korea. Moon responded that he agreed it is "time to put maximum pressure" on Pyongyang.

Moon had initially trumpeted a call for dialogue rather than pressure. His shift to a focus on pressure due to North Korea's repeated provocations, and getting in step with Japan and the United States on this issue, should be welcomed. Moon should unwaveringly adhere to this plan from here on.

In recent months, Abe and Moon have frequently exchanged views, including through talks on the telephone. As the two leaders hold numerous conversations, it is important for both governments to craft a relationship of trust and coordinate their diplomatic policies.

It also will be essential to strengthen defense cooperation involving the United States. Four additional launchers for a cutting-edge interceptor missile system have been deployed by the U.S. military forces in South Korea.

Sharing information about North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs, conducting joint military exercises and boosting the ability to deal with North Korea through a buildup of military equipment will help deter Pyongyang from acting recklessly.

It is regrettable that in this situation in which Japan-South Korea cooperation is strongly required, both leaders must engage in fundamental exchanges over so-called comfort women and former requisitioned workers mobilized from the Korean Peninsula while it was a Japanese colony.

The responsibility for this state of affairs lies with Moon, who unilaterally dredged up historical issues during a speech and press conference in August.

During their latest meeting, Abe said, "I want to appropriately manage difficult issues [together with Moon]." Just as Abe indicated, both governments must work to build a future-oriented relationship and ensure historical problems do not spill over and affect other issues.

Moon has insisted former requisitioned workers still have an individual right to claim compensation from Japanese companies - an assertion that abruptly overturned a position that had been held by South Korean governments for decades. Abe again emphasized the government's conventional stance that the issue has been settled under the 1965 Japan-South Korea agreement on property and claims.

Under this agreement, reached after discussions on the former requisitioned workers during negotiations on the normalization of bilateral diplomatic ties, Japan paid $500 million in economic assistance, and both sides confirmed compensation issues had been "settled completely and finally."

A 2005 review of this position by the administration of then South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun concluded former requisitioned workers were covered by the agreement.

The Japanese side's assertion is unshakable. If, hypothetically speaking, compensation or relief is to be provided to former requisitioned workers, it is logical this would come from the South Korean government, not Japanese companies.

On the comfort women issue, steadily implementing the 2015 bilateral agreement is the path both governments should take.

— Yomiuri Shimbun

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