Maintain transparent defence policy: S. Korea

The National Diet building is illuminated during dusk in Tokyo on Sept 19, 2015 after Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's controversial security bills were passed during a session of parliament overnight.
The National Diet building is illuminated during dusk in Tokyo on Sept 19, 2015 after Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's controversial security bills were passed during a session of parliament overnight.PHOTO: AFP

South Korea has urged Japan to maintain a transparent defence policy and a spirit of peace, hours after Tokyo passed two security Bills that will allow Japanese troops to go to the aid of the country's allies in conflicts beyond its borders.

In a statement yesterday, South Korea's foreign ministry called on Japan to continue to contribute to regional peace and stability, while implementing its new policies "with transparency and maintaining the spirit of the pacifist Constitution".

The ministry also reiterated its stand that Tokyo should seek Seoul's consent before deploying its troops over issues relating to South Korea's security and national interests.

The South Korean government has repeatedly emphasised that Japan's right to collective self defence should not be in violation of South Korea's sovereignty.

Some politicians in South Korea yesterday voiced concerns over the possible revival of Japanese militarism, with opposition representative Kim Young Rok condemning Japan's move and urging the South Korean government to voice regrets over the move.

But analysts said the administration of President Park Geun Hye gave a low-key response to avoid being seen as moving closer towards China and away from its security allies, the United States and Japan.

China has protested against the passing of the Bills. Both South Korea and China suffered greatly under Japan's wartime aggression and are wary of the possibility of its remilitarisation.

Dr Bong Young Shik from the Asan Institute for Policy Studies said that the South Korean government will avoid doing anything radical that could jeopardise upcoming summits with the US, China and Japan.

Instead, Seoul has to "compensate for the loss of credibility as a reliable partner" of the US and Japan, after Ms Park attended China's recent war anniversary event, which was shunned by Western powers, he added.

"The dilemma for South Korea is that its national security is very closely linked to Japan," he said, referring to the fact that Japan, as a US ally, will help to defend South Korea against North Korea. "On the one hand, Japan playing a larger regional role is good news for South Korea, but on the other hand, it reminds South Korea of what Japan did as an imperialist power."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the legislative change would allow Japan's self defence forces to take part in peace-keeping operations against security threats like North Korean provocation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 20, 2015, with the headline 'Maintain transparent defence policy: S. Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe