The Blue House recounted in detail how Japan has become an obstacle to setting the stage for peace on the Korean Peninsula and how it has rebuffed the US’s attempts to mediate in its dispute with South Korea. “Considering that our two countries have shared the values of liberal democracy and market economy for decades, Japan’s removal of South Korea from its white list on the pretext of security can be regarded as a public slap in the face,” said Kim Hyun-chong, second deputy director of the Blue House National Security Office.
“Rather than assisting South Korea in its efforts to get the peace process underway, Japan has thrown up roadblocks to that process. Japan opposed delaying the South Korea-US joint military exercises around the Pyongchang Winter Olympics and maintained that sanctions and pressure were the only solution even while dialogue and cooperation with South Korea was underway. It also tried to raise tensions by calling for Japanese citizens residing in South Korea to rehearse a wartime evacuation,” Kim said during a briefing on the afternoon of Aug. 2.
It’s unusual for a figure at the Blue House to openly state that Japan presents an obstacle to the creation of peace on the Korean Peninsula. Such remarks indicate that Blue House officials are fuming over Japan’s removal of South Korea from its white list of countries who enjoy expedited export procedures. “We ought to give some serious thought to the meaning of the peace and prosperity of the ‘normal country’ that Japan seeks to become,” Kim added.
A senior official from the Blue House also went into the details of Japan’s rejection of the US’s attempted mediation. “On July 29, the US expressed its concerns [to us] about the ongoing dispute and suggested that we and Japan put a temporary freeze on the status quo while holding negotiations in an attempt to reach a diplomatic agreement. My understanding is that the same proposal was communicated to the Japanese on the same day. Based on the American proposal, therefore, we proposed high-level bilateral deliberations on the afternoon of July 30, but Japan rejected our proposal a few hours later,” the official said.
This official went on to speak of the need to seriously question the effectiveness of American mediation. “We need to carefully consider Japan’s rationale and motivations behind its removal of South Korea from the white list — are they economic, political, or both at the same time?”
“Given such considerations, we need to give some serious thought to the potential effectiveness of the US attempting to bring Japan around.”
In effect, this official said, South Korea still needs to figure out whether Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s sudden export controls represent an attempt to contain South Korea’s growing economy, a request to give Japan a seat at the table in peace talks on the Korean Peninsula, or a call for a fundamental realignment of the cooperative relationship between South Korea, Japan, and the US that has been in place since South Korea and Japan settled their outstanding claims in 1965.