SEOUL – South Korea on Tuesday urged Japan to dispel concerns among neighboring countries about its militaristic past as it moves to reinterpret its Constitution in such a way as to allow for the exercise of collective self-defense.
“Our position is that the discussions should be held on the basis of the pacifist Constitution, dispelling concerns among neighboring countries stemming from the past history and into a direction of contributing peace and stability in the region,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kwang-il said during a press briefing.
His comments were made after Japan’s ruling parties agreed earlier Tuesday on a major overhaul of the country’s postwar security policy, allowing the exercise of the right to collective self-defense by reinterpreting the pacifist Constitution.
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was set to approve the change later Tuesday despite criticism from the public and even within the ruling bloc that the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution will be gutted.
Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910-1945 and anti-Japanese sentiment remains strong in South Korea. Seoul accuses Tokyo of embracing historical revisionism and failing to break away from the country’s militarist past.
“Our government’s position has been the same: any issue affecting security on the Korean Peninsula and our national interests in exercising the right for self-defense should never be allowed without our request or consent,” Noh said.
He said an official response by South Korea will be made after Japan’s expected announcement on the issue later in the day.
According to a draft prepared by the Japanese government for Cabinet approval, Japan will be allowed to exercise the right to collective self-defense if “the country’s existence is threatened and there are clear dangers that the people’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would be overturned” due to an attack on Japan or “countries with close ties.”
Collective self-defense is a sensitive issue in Japan, as Tokyo has long maintained that it possesses the right but cannot exercise it due to the limits of Article 9, which has banned the use of force to settle international disputes since the end of World War II.