National / Politics

Hawkish LDP lawmakers urge Abe administration to take action amid Japan's disputes with South Korea

Kyodo

Lawmakers from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party on Wednesday intensified calls on the government to act against South Korea, as the two countries have been locked in fierce historical and military related disputes in recent months.

At a meeting of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers well versed in diplomacy, Japan’s ambassador to South Korea, Yasumasa Nagamine, explained the current status of bilateral ties, while noting that it is important for Tokyo to keep communicating with Seoul and to manage differences.

Still, a chorus of hawkish requests came from lawmakers of the ruling party, with one attendee saying that the public wants “swift countermeasures” and that the government should show its resolve by recalling the ambassador.

South Korea’s top court ruled in favor of South Korean plaintiffs seeking compensation from Japanese firms for forced labor during Japan’s rule of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945. Tokyo promptly criticized the rulings, handed down in October and November, as breaching “international law,” based on the view that the two nations settled the issue of compensation in 1965.

Nagamine told the lawmakers that Tokyo has been calling on Seoul to engage in bilateral talks based on the 1965 accord to resolve their dispute.

“We plan to manage issues of (bilateral) concern in a future-oriented way and keep communication with the South Korean side,” the envoy said.

On the South Korean Navy’s alleged targeting of its fire-control radar on a Japanese patrol plane, Nagamine said Seoul’s responses have “lacked composure.” But he said the incident should not harm relations between Japanese and South Korean defense authorities.

Japan and South Korea have traded barbs over the Dec. 20 radar lock-on incident, with both sides presenting visual evidence to support their claims.

South Korea has denied Japan’s claim that a fire-control radar — intended to measure the direction and distance of an object before launching an attack — was used.

The South Korean military has also accused Japan’s Self-Defense Forces of making multiple low-altitude flights near South Korean Navy ships, a claim denied by Japan.

The worsening of ties between the Asian neighbors was evident when Abe made no mention of the bilateral relationship in his policy speech in the Diet on Monday. Instead, Foreign Minister Taro Kono urged South Korea to fulfill promises made in bilateral agreements, including the 1965 accord.

Japanese government officials say Tokyo is waiting to see how Seoul will respond to a recent run of events. A senior Foreign Ministry official who attended the LDP meeting said there is no plan to recall Nagamine as the ambassador needs to stay in South Korea to protect Japanese business interests.

The Japanese firms ordered by South Korea’s top court to compensate wartime laborers are Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.