ICAS Special Contribution

No. 98-1113-AkN

 Searching for a Korean-Japanese Strategic Partnership: 
 Nucleus of a Trans-Pacific Security Community 


Akihisa Nagashima

November 12, 1998.

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

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Email: icas@icasinc.org


Biographic Sketch: Akihisa Nagashima



[Editor's note: This paper is, with a written permission from the author, a special contribution to The ICAS Lectures series. Nagashima presented this paper at the "1998 International Conference: Comprehensive Security and Multiculturalism in Post-Cold War East Asia" sponsored by Korean Association of International Studies, Seoul, November 12-14, 1998. It has since been published as Chapter 4 of Comprehensive Security and Multilateralism in Post-Cold War East Asia, edited by Kwang Il Baek (Seoul: The Korean Association of International Studies, 1999). sjk].




a paper prepared for the Seoul Conference
"Conflict and Cooperation in Post-Cold War East Asia"
organized by the Korean Association of International Studies
Seoul, Republic of Korea
November 12-14, 1998

Akihisa Nagashima
Research Associate for Asian Security Studies
Council on Foreign Relations
1779 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036



       The relationship between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) has long been seen as one of the world's most extreme examples of the diplomatic maxim: "Neighbors find it difficult to live in harmony." But the state of Japanese-Korean relations increasingly concerns many who are aware of the fluid character of Northeast Asia. Although the bilateral Japan-ROK defense relationship began as early as 1979,1 security cooperation between Tokyo and Seoul has never enhanced actively thus far. In coping with instability on the Korean Peninsula, for example, the ROK-Japan relationship is seriously weak "leg" in the American security triangle formed with the U.S.-Japan and U.S.-ROK alliances, and has produced tremendous difficulties in policy coordination throughout a wide range of issues including Korean Energy Development Organization (KEDO) projects, humanitarian aid, normalization with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea), financial assistance to North Korea, and the North's development and export of ballistic missiles.2 It has frequently been said that Japan fears the reunification of the Korean Peninsula; the end of North-South confrontation on the Peninsula would only refuel Korean antagonism toward Japan; and there is little chance for U.S.-ROK-Japanese defense planners to discuss contingency cooperation since some activities of the Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF) may take place in Korean territories.3 Some have criticized Japanese tendency to ignore the brutalities of the past, while others have accused Koreans being unable to focus on little else. This psychological stand-off has stymied efforts at reconciliation ever since the normalization of diplomatic relations in 1965.

       However, the recent South Korean President Kim Dae Jung's state visit to Japan constituted a watershed moment but long-overdue first step toward a full reconciliation between Japan and Korea. As a joint statement puts it, "the Japanese Prime Minister, looking back on the relations between Korea and Japan in this century, humbly accepted the historical fact that the Japanese colonial rule inflicted unbearable damage and pain on the Korean people and expressed remorseful repentance and heartfelt apology for the ordeal." In response, "the President of the ROK sincerely recognized and appreciated the prime minister's perception on the history, and mentioned that the times require that Korea and Japan overcome the unfortunate history and build a future-oriented relationship based on the spirit of reconciliation and friendship through concerted efforts by the both sides." It was indeed the first time that Japan expressed remorse and apologized directly to the Korean people in a document.4

       How far can the Japanese and Koreans go beyond this historic "political" breakthrough? What should be the goal toward which the two countries are to work together? What are the obstacles and opportunities they will confront as they strive to achieve that goal against the backdrop of a somewhat fluid strategic environment in Northeast Asia? To address these questions, this paper attempts to redefine Japan-Korea relations from the "strategic" points of view; explore various security cooperation options centered on maritime cooperation as a means for nurturing a solid bilateral "partnership" in the region and beyond that will transcend the troubled history between the two countries; and finally suggest a "Trans-Pacific Security Community" as a goal of the updated Japan-Korea strategic partnership cemented by strong ties with the United States.

II. Time Has Come: Revolutional Trends across the Tsushima Straits

       President Kim's visit to Japan signified that the time has finally come for the Koreans and Japanese alike to be prepared to take a bolder step toward full collaboration in the security area in addition to the other areas of economic cooperation and cultural exchanges. Three trends suggest a new opportunity to do this.

       The first trend is embodied by the "Japan-ROK Joint Declaration on a New Partnership toward the Twenty-first Century" issued in Tokyo on October 8, 1998. As Okonogi Masao adequately labels, the Joint Declaration and the 43-point joint action plan "virtually amended" the 1965 Japan-Korea Basic Agreement which normalized diplomatic relations.5 A new fishery agreement, struck at dawn on September 25 as a result of serious around-the-clock dialogue between powerful politicians and fisheries ministers on both sides, apparently created a significant momentum that paved the way for the successful Japan-Korea summit two weeks later.6 This agreement would help contain, or put aside at least for a while, inflammatory territorial disputes over Takeshima/Tokdo. The Korean government's lifting of a ban on cultural inflow from Japan apparently accelerates the trend. Furthermore, thanks to President Kim's daring invitation, the first visit of the Japanese Emperor to South Korea, which might be able to put a formal end to the die-hard cycle of mutual distrust between the two countries, now becomes a question of when rather than whether.

       Second, the prolonged and uncertain situation North of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) has been providing, ironically, a golden opportunity for Seoul and Tokyo to work together on a wide range of issues from economics to security. Given the potential threat posed by North Korea, regardless of whether it results in explosion or implosion, Japan and South Korea have managed to steadily improve bilateral consultation and cooperation on security issues with support and encouragement from the United States. The most notable example of this was the reaction to South Korean concerns with the process and substance of the review of the 1978 U.S.-Japan Guidelines for Defense Cooperation. In response to Korean (and other Asian neighbor's) concerns, the U.S. and Japanese Governments took the transparency of the Guidelines review process seriously, issuing a public interim report in July 1997 and holding trilateral meetings with the ROK Ministry of Defense in March 1997, May 1997 and April 1998, which included detailed briefings on the new Guidelines and trilateral discussions of the appropriate scope of U.S.-Japan operations around the Korean Peninsula in a contingency.7

       The recent launch of the North Korean Taepodong missile resulted in getting the United States, Japan and South Korea to share a common threat perception in a more serious way than ever before, since the Taepodong launch brought not only all of Korea and Japan but also all the U.S. forward bases in Asia within the striking range of Pyongyang's missiles. Subsequent events have further reminded us of the fact that the United States, Japan and Korea together are locked in the possible contingency on the Korean Peninsula. For instance, during the recent "Foal Eagle 1998" combined U.S.-ROK military exercise, the U.S. 7th Fleet's flagship USS Blue Ridge commanded the entire exercises from the Yokosuka Naval Base.8 In addition to the fact that seven U.S. bases in Japan are designated as UNC installations,9 moreover, the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) conducted a series of joint exercises with French, Australian and New Zealand warships under U.N. Command (UNC) in Korea when they visited Japan.10 Clearly, as Ralph Cossa articulates, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the United States to defend South Korea without the U.S. alliance with Japan and the bases and facilities Japan provides.11

       However, once the North Korean threat dissipates, a new security challenge might be considerably less obvious than it is today. Will the momentum of the Japan-Korea bilateral security cooperation fade away? Some express uncertainty about the future and therefore recommend that Tokyo and Seoul now develop a solid basis of closer consultation that looks beyond reunification or the extinction of the North's threat.12 The ROK government has already begun searching for a future-oriented defense policy, increasingly focusing on regional stability rather than simply maintaining deterrence against North Korea.13 In this context, the ongoing pursuit of a more ambitious defense policy by the ROK government-acquiring submarines from Germany in 1987, and P-3C maritime patrol aircraft from the United States in 1990, as well as starting indigenous production of submarines and KDX destroyers and licensed production of F-16 fighters-increasingly concerns Japanese and American defense policy-makers alike.14 Nevertheless, I believe that the Japan-Korea bilateral security cooperation in conjunction with the United States could become even more relevant after resolving the confrontation on the Peninsula. That is because a similar process of shifting Japan's defense policy orientation from anti-Soviet Cold War scenario to a broader sense of regional as well as global security concerns postulated since early 1990s may provide a good model for Koreans to follow.

       Third, the current evolution in the Japanese security policy, since the embarrassing failure during the 1991 Gulf War, could pave the way for the Japanese to take a more realistic and proactive approach with regard to national security and international relations in the post-Cold War era.15 For example, the U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines review and their implementation process have virtually marginalized the long-standing debate over the right of collective self-defense, which in the past hindered any kind of defense cooperation with other states unless Japan were under direct attack. Most activities included in the rear area support for U.S. forces (which, during the Gulf War, were considered to be unconstitutional because they exceeded the limit of minimum necessary level of self-defense) became constitutional as the so-called "gray areas" were cleared in the process. Mine-sweeping during conflict, maritime interdiction operations under the auspices of the U.N., and logistical support in the event of a contingency (as well as in peacetime), all included in the gray area are now allowed. In addition, JSDF's overseas operations have become quite common since it was dispatched in 1993 to participate in U.N. peace-keeping operations in Cambodia as well as non-combatant evacuation operations in Cambodian political turmoil in 1997 and Indonesian crisis in 1998. The supporting legislations of those operations have recently been fairly improved. More importantly, based on the experience of bilateral military exercises on search and rescue (SAR) with Russia in July 1998-JSDF's first-ever bilateral exercise with a state other than the United States-Japan and Korea recently agreed that the two countries' navies and air forces will be conducting a joint SAR exercise in spring of 1999.16 The uncertain strategic environment of the post-Cold War in general and the recent currency crisis surrounding Japan in particular, is moving Japan toward a more realistic and practical security policy, which is definitely providing a wider opportunity for Tokyo, Seoul and Washington to develop a close security cooperation.

III. "Partnership" for What?: Strategic Stakes of Japan-Korea Relations

       The October 8 Joint Statement manifests a "new" Japanese-Korean partnership for the 21st century. But what kind of partnership would Tokyo and Seoul anticipate? One answer may be a partnership that signifies considerable strategic stakes that the Japanese and Koreans share in the region and beyond.

       Recent years in Northeast Asia have witnessed a symbolic restructuring of the power equation in the post-Cold War era: China and Russia elevated their relationship from a "constructive" to a "strategic partnership" in 1996. As well the United States and China declared themselves in similar terms, leaving behind the differences in values or difficulties in history and instead stressing the geo-strategic significance of their relationship. Japanese-Korean relations should also be defined along the notion of strategic partnership in a sense that the direction and closeness of the bilateral relations have a significant strategic impact on the fluid environment of Northeast Asia. There are several factors of major strategic import to Asia-Pacific region which would reshape the geopolitical balance, and therefore the strategic dynamics of Japan-Korea relations. These factors include the expansion of Chinese sphere of influence, the future of U.S. commitment to the regional peace and stability, and the end of confrontation on the Korean Peninsula.

A. China Question

       The focal issue of the strategic dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region for at least the first quarter of the 21st century will involve the United States and China: "hegemonic power vs. emerging power" in international relations theory terms. China's strategic objective, on the one hand, is to expand its sphere of influence as much as possible, while maintaining a stable environment surrounding the country (with the exception of Taiwan17) to sustain its long range economic growth. On the other hand, the U.S. strategic objective is to maintain the status-quo global order with a resilient web of alliances as long as possible at as cheap a cost as possible. In this context, Japan and Korea hold a significant strategic role. If Korea, surrounded by powerful Asian neighbors, aligns itself with China against Japan and the United States, the consequence would be rather tragic: a classical example of a "land power vs. maritime power" confrontation. The key factor that will prevent such a confrontation is an effective collaboration between Japan and Korea-which is based on the current sets of security arrangements with the United States and which will create a solid foundation for China to integrate itself fully into international order. In sum, the distance between Japan and Korea would determine the viability of smaller triangle of relations between the United States, Japan, and the ROK as well as the stability of larger triangle relations between China, the United States, and Japan and Korea that represent Asia as a whole.

B. U.S. Presence Forever?

       The forthcoming East Asia Security Review to be issued by U.S. Department of Defense, the first review since 1995, is expected to reconfirm the current 100,000 troops level of U.S. commitment to the regional peace and stability. But continuing downward pressure on the U.S. defense budget would make it harder to maintain the same level of commitment in the region. Meanwhile, ongoing U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral consultations among policy planning staffs are expected to allow Japan and South Korea to discuss long-term U.S. defense commitments in the region.18 Robust U.S. military presence as a crucial stabilizing factor in the region is essential to both countries' security policy formulations. In addition, continued U.S. engagement would provide the most reliable basis for strengthening Japan-ROK mutual confidence. Moreover, a common U.S.-ROK-Japan agreement on long-term U.S. presence would put all-three nation's relations with China on a solid footing, given the expectation that growing Chinese criticism of U.S. presence is a critical destabilizing factor in the region. The critical moment, at least from a domestic (nationalistic) point of view, would likely come after the Korean confrontation is resolved, resulting in a drastic reduction of tension on the Peninsula, which is desirable, and calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Korea, which in turn would put tremendous pressure on U.S. forces in Japan to go home. Such a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, however, would create a security vacuum. "Co-hosting" U.S. presence by Japan and Korea, if necessary for budgetary and political reasons, may be worth considering in light of these expected pressures for reorganization of the U.S. forward-deployed forces. One might consider that a U.S. Marine Corps unit rotating between Okinawa and southern bases in Korea with an amphibious ready group home-ported at Sasebo Naval Base makes operational sense.19

C. Regionalization of the U.S.-ROK Alliance

       As the resolution of Korean confrontation comes in sight, it would be imperative for the United States and South Korea to transform the current bilateral alliance against war into a "regional alliance" to provide long-term viability for the alliance.20 In the meantime, the U.S.-Japan alliance has also updated through the redefinition and reaffirmation process of the bilateral security alliance, which was culminated by the April 1996 U.S.-Japan Joint Security Declaration, and the subsequent Defense Guidelines review. The review, the redefinition of alliance roles and missions, has expanded Japan's focus and responsibilities incrementally; in essence, calling for additional Japanese rear area support for American operations, including logistical, material, and base and facilities contributions. As a result Japan, for the first time, has at least the option of being counted "in" if there were to be a serious crisis in East Asia.21 Due to deep-rooted South Korean suspicions of Japanese military policy, Seoul instinctively was first concerned about the Defense Guidelines review but later expressed its "support with caution."22 However, the updating process of the U.S.-Japan Alliance between 1994 and 1997 under the so-called "Nye Initiative" (named after then U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Joseph Nye, Jr.) may provide various lessons for the U.S.-ROK Alliance.23

IV. The Content of a Strategic Partnership: Security Cooperation Centered on Assistance Projection

       In this regard, it is worth noting that one of the most active second-track security dialogues among the United Sates, Japan and Korea has suggested that the key area of prospective Japan-Korea strategic partnership should be maritime/naval cooperation.24 Indeed, maritime/naval cooperation would be a good way to capitalize on areas of common interest between Japan and Korea, because the two countries heavily rely on sea-borne trade and therefore highly value the security of the sea-lines of communication (SLOC).25 Specifically, the maritime geography of Northeast Asia with the nature of narrow straits, key choke points, and most importantly, highly concentrated commercial shipping lanes provide tremendous opportunities for the Korean and Japanese navies to cooperate.26 Moreover, naval forces are flexible instruments in that naval deployments and exercises can be conducted without crossing territorial boundaries and provoking coastal nations. "To opinion makers, politicians, and public ashore," as Brian Robertson puts it, "out of sight usually means out of mind."27 In other words, a state can be engaged in a naval cooperation with a country with which it has a difficult relationship without arousing the concern of its own people. Maritime cooperation therefore makes sense when one considers some inherent limitations involving in Japan-Korea relations. Due to their historical legacy, it is almost unimaginable that Japanese-Korean defense cooperation would involve Japanese ground forces operating on the Korean Peninsula. Take a crisis on the Korean Peninsula for example. For the new U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines to be effective, possible Japan-ROK cooperation with U.S. forces would be primarily maritime missions with limited cooperation with air and ground forces.28 For example, U.S. Marine Corps, ROK Army, and JMSDF with capable mine-sweeping units may cooperate in a non-combatant evacuation mission on the Korean Peninsula. In other words, in the foreseeable future, Japan and Korea would be expected to provide "assistance projection" capabilities to complement U.S. power projection capabilities consisting of an aircraft carrier battle group, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and amphibious forces.29

       Assistance projection capabilities, although not yet well spelled out, include peacekeeping, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, provision of logistic support to deployed ground units, intelligence sharing, non-combatant evacuation, search and rescue, maritime interdiction, and mine-sweeping operations. As operations with regard to Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, and Liberia demonstrated, these measures are increasingly important to contain post-Cold War threats and to protect citizens and ensure freedom of navigation. Furthermore, it is also true that each service of the armed forces has a certain capacity and important roles to play in maintaining regional security. Japanese-Korean security cooperation should be expanded, along the line with assistance projection, to combined international peacekeeping operations with ground troops and air and ballistic missile defense with air forces of both countries.

       Focusing on maritime/naval cooperation, retired JMSDF Rear Admiral Kawamura Sumihiko, who appreciates naval cooperation between the U.S. Navy and the JMSDF to date, particularly in terms of roles and missions sharing and interoperability, suggests that if the force structure-such as fleet escort flotilla with distinct capabilities of anti-submarine warfare and mine-counter measures-becomes symmetric in both Japan and Korea, it would make it much easier for the U.S. Navy to conduct combined operations with its counterparts. This would help prevent suspicion and a naval arms race and instead provide more opportunities for combined training and exchange of information between Seoul and Tokyo.30 Meanwhile, JMSDF's roles and missions will continue to be defensive in nature, and its force structure will remain complementary to U.S. naval forces with high interoperability. In this regard, Japan's unique "incomplete force structure," in which it has concentrated on building a "exclusively defensive force" by refraining from power-projection capability, might be able to provide a model that Korean military forces could follow, after the inevitable period of army-concentrated force development is over. This complementary type of force structure, if it could continue to be combined with the U.S. forces, would be a wise way of dealing with their dwindling defense budget as well.

       It is the South Korean military, especially the Navy and Air Force, that has so far expressed interest in acquiring the knowledge and skills that the JSDF has with regard to naval and air operations, education, and training. The area of operational know-how in which they are most interested is the JMSDF's world-class anti-submarine capabilities with destroyer-class surface ships, diesel-powered submarines, and maritime reconnaissance.31 Although both South Korea and Japan began an exchange of naval training squadrons as early as 1993, Tokyo has so far turned down Seoul's proposal that Korean submariners train on Japanese submarines and training simulators.32 There are also areas of interest involving the ROK Air Force, such as capabilities in early warning, information collection, and technology for aircraft production that Japan Air Self Defense Force has developed. However, Japan has again not responded positively so far, since there is a critical obstacle hindering Tokyo from embarking on full-fledged military cooperation with Seoul:33 Japan's self-imposed restrictions on military activities, including bans on collective defense and on exports of military technology.

V. The Purpose of a Strategic Partnership: Building a "Trans-Pacific Security Community"

       As Michael Green puts it, "Japan and Korea have been aligned but not allied since the beginning of the Cold War."34 I call this state of the bilateral security relations short of alliance a "strategic partnership." But this state of the bilateral security ties may be more than meets the eye, if one explores ways to enhance Japan-Korea security relations without destabilizing the balance of power in the region in general and without provoking Chinese suspicion in particular. If the objective is solely enhancing security cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo, realists tend to recommend the establishment of a U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral "collective defense" structure based on the current Korean and Japanese alliances with the United States. On the contrary, liberal idealists would be suspicious of the "exclusive" nature of such an arrangement and instead suggest a "collective security" type of multilateral mechanism in order to realize a more cooperative and therefore stable regional order. Both have strong and weak points as a matter of course. Collective or cooperative security arrangements, exemplified by ARF and other second-track dialogue fora such as CSCAP and NEACD, are often criticized for heir lack of enforcement ability to restore peace. Their inclusive nature, however, would be attractive to South Korea which is surrounded by powerful states,35 whereas collective defense is effective but allegedly provocative, especially in an environment where any threat is not imminent.36

       To transcend these conventional two "extreme" options of an inclusive multilateral security mechanism and an exclusive web of bilateral alliances, the notion of a "security community" could provide a useful objective for Japanese and Korean cooperation, based on the current sets of alliances with the United States. When Karl Deutsch depicted the North Atlantic states as a security community in 1957, Japan and Korea had not yet recovered from the devastating damage to their industrial base caused by the Pacific War and the following Korean War. Today, the two countries have many things in common, including a resilient democracy and market economy although struck by the recent financial crisis to considerable extent. Applying Deutsch's definition, Japan and Korea apparently meet all the 14 criteria considered to be helpful or essential for forming a security community.37 As a result, the U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral relations should be called a "Trans-Pacific Security Community." More importantly, this triangular Trans-Pacific Security Community consisting of the two legs of the currently resilient U.S.-Japan and U.S.-ROK alliances and the developing leg of Korea-Japan strategic partnership is not an exclusive arrangement, but rather an inclusive one if other countries meet certain conditions.38

       Building a security community will change neither the current balance of power nor the existing set of treaties and constitutions of its members. Nor does an enemy need to be named. No formal set of the strategic equations sustaining the current stability in the region will be changed; a security community will only bring about increased closeness and interactions between Korea and Japan, as well as the United States. The only necessary bond is a strategic awareness of how the members share common values, interests, and security concerns. It is natural that like-minded states work together to form a community, which in theory would not disturb any other states outside the community. A prudent way to achieve the goal of building a Trans-Pacific Security Community may be exemplified by the purposefully incremental and transparent process of the U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines review, which did not change the existing framework of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty or the Constitutions of the two states.

       To conclude, I would raise the following three issues that need to be hammered out as next but necessary steps to further solidify the basis of the Trans-Pacific Security Community.

Institutional issues

Japan has developed a unique alliance structure with the United States throughout the Cold War era without a combind command structure that we see in other major security alliances such as NATO. This "U.S.-Japan Model," identified by Kim Chun-pom, as opposed to the NATO Model, may be the one that the Koreans are now considering as a model for a U.S.-ROK alliance in the post-unification period.39 In the meantime, Washington and Tokyo are now working hard to innovate a closer security consultation mechanism which is aimed at compensating for the lack of a combined command system in the implementation of the 1997 Defense Guidelines.40 Accordingly, U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral consultation and policy coordination mechanism should be institutionalized with working level officials as well as foreign and defense ministers, which already exists in the U.S.-Japan alliance.41

Operational issues

       It is increasingly problematic that Japan has its own obstacles to direct security cooperation with South Korea, mainly due to constitutional and other legal constraints on collective defense.42 But it is also true, as I mentioned earlier, that the Japanese government's interpretation regarding the right to collective defense has been gradually shifting. The Defense Guidelines review has made the Japanese more aware than ever that it is impossible to distinguish between "individual" and "collective" self-defense.43 As a result, there seems to be a certain consensus, albeit still implicit, among Japanese leadership ranging from Nakasone Yasuhiro (known as hawkish on national security) to Miyazawa Kiichi (known as dovish) that the defensive operations of JSDF with U.S. forces outside the territory of Japan should be constitutional as long as there is no combat by the JSDF in third countries.44 For the preservation of Article 9 of the current Japanese constitution, only one more clarification is needed; that is that the Japanese government should establish a new policy that allows collective self-defense, but pledges never to send forces abroad without the request or consent of the host nation.

Political issues

       Finally, we cannot ignore political issues involving the troubled past between Japan and Korea, before we advance the effort discussed above in order to establish a Japan-Korea strategic partnership and then a Trans-Pacific Security Community with the United States. Although the October 8 Japan-Korea Joint Declaration has created the framework for future cooperative ties and provided a solid basis for a strategic partnership between the two nations, three major thorns still remain while being subtly neglected. These are: (1) the "comfort women," a symbol of Imperial Japan's brutal occupation of Korea and (2) wartime liabilities, frequently washed away by Japanese ultra-conservative politicians; and (3) territorial disputes over Takeshima/Tokdo. Three respective solutions below should be seriously discussed within the Japanese public.

1. Thorough and comprehensive disclosures of official information regarding "comfort women," allegedly still classified within the National Police Agency, Defense Agency, and Interior Ministry,45 so that the Japanese public becomes fully aware of what is "true" in terms of the role of the government, transcending a variety of "interpretations" and "agitation" trumpeted by ideologically biased left wing activists and right wing scholars in Japan. Fundamental problems lie in the desperate lack of information.

       Next, we all are annoyed that after every "formal apology" made by the Emperors, Prime Ministers, and whoever else in the Japanese leadership, some cabinet member, one of only 22 political leaders of Japan, makes astonishingly inappropriate remarks on his personal "interpretation of history." Another remark of this kind would easily ruin constructive political leadership demonstrated in the October 7-11 Japan-Korea summit. Therefore,

2. Every Cabinet should sign a cabinet resolution, or kakugi-kettei, at the initial cabinet meeting that would require only the 22 top political leaders of Japan in the Cabinet to commit themselves not to express their "personal" opinion regarding the "interpretation of history," so that no one in the Cabint, while in office, would deviate from the official line and confuse Japanese foreign policy to the detriment of national interest.46

       Although the new fishery agreement put aside the inflammatory territorial disputes over Takeshima/Tokdo, Japan at the very least needs to squarely recognize the historical facts concerning the rocky islets. We all know that there is an enormous amount of evidence that each side has claimed to support their arguments, dating to the 6th century. But according to "facts" neither Koreans nor Japanese can deny, Japan's unilateral declaration of its sovereignty over Takeshima was given in January 1905, in the middle of the Russo-Japanese War, but the notification to Korea was not made until 1906 after Japan deprived Korea of diplomatic and military authorities by the Second Japan-Korea Agreement, or the Eulsa Treaty, of November 1905. It is also common knowledge that the ratification of the Eulsa Treaty was forced on Korea by the Japanese delegation led by Ito Hirobumi and GEN Hasegawa Gonnosuke, and there were no signatures by the King and the Prime Minister of Korea. That is why Takeshima/Tokdo issue always angers Korean people, even while the Japanese government maintains that their claim is supported by international laws. Therefore,

3. The Government of Japan should unilaterally freeze its territorial claim over Takeshima; call for the prompt convening of a bilateral commission to discuss a "new border" between Japan and Korea; and propose to get back jointly to the so-called "Peace Line," drawn based on "MacArthur Line" of 1946, which separates Japanese and Korean sea space at a point equidistant between the out-skirts of the territories of the two countries, where Takeshima/Tokdo barely falls into Korean territorial waters.47

       It is indeed not an easy task for the Japanese and Koreans to overcome the many problems between the two countries, especially those involving national pride. But the Japan-Korea strategic partnership is the key to assure peace and stability in Northeast Asia. There is now a great opportunity to transcend narrow-minded nationalism in each country, fueled by their bitter past, if Koreans and Japanese could consider the current bilateral relationship within the wider context of shaping a new regional order.48 This opportunity would best be seized if Japanese and Koreans (and Americans) would explore together the building of a Trans-Pacific Security Community.


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