Seoul, Beijing differ in reactions towards Japan's new-look Cabinet

TOKYO • South Korean media is alarmed by Japan's new-look Cabinet, unveiled on Wednesday, while China is hopeful that bilateral ties will continue to improve.

The different reactions by the two North-east Asian neighbours, which have long assailed Japan for its wartime activities, underscore the extent to which Tokyo's ties with Seoul lie in permafrost even as its relations with Beijing thaw.

South Korean media is wary of the Japanese Cabinet's shift to the right, noting how Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has handpicked hawkish allies for his team.

The South Korean media is especially concerned over Mr Abe's selection of alleged historical revisionists, like Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda, who might have no qualms about whitewashing Japan's inglorious history of aggression towards victims such as comfort women from the country's textbooks.

South Korean news station YTN also slammed the reassignment of Mr Taro Kono from foreign minister to defence chief, saying he has previously "only shown enthusiasm in criticising South Korea".

However, Mr Kono has won praise in China, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying telling a daily news conference that Mr Kono has "made great efforts to promote the improvement and development of Sino-Japanese relations".

She added that China looks forward to working closely with his successor, Mr Toshimitsu Motegi, so as to "jointly promote the construction of Sino-Japanese relations that meet the requirements of a new age".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2019, with the headline 'Seoul, Beijing differ in reactions'. Print Edition | Subscribe