Declaring a virtual war of diplomacy, President Roh Moo-hyun criticized Japan on Wednesday for attempting to justify its 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and claim territorial sovereignty over the Tokto (Dokdo) islets in the East Sea.
Issuing a statement to the people, Roh said, ``Now the government cannot but squarely address the matter. We can no longer sit idle as Japan’s imperial move will (adversely) determine the future of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.’’
He said the government will take all diplomatic steps to tackle the matter and the ``core of such measures will be urging the Japanese government to backtrack.’’
``Although there is concern that the Japanese government will fail to come up with a sincere response to our request, we will persistently call for it,’’ Roh said. Roh himself wrote the strongly-worded statement, aides said.
Regarding Japan’s misdeeds, Roh cited Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visit to a shrine dedicated to those killed while fighting in World War II, declaration of Takeshima Day by a Japanese local council and distortion of history in school textbooks.
``Such behaviors nullify all the remorse and apologies of the past. We cannot but judge that such acts were committed with the consent of the Japanese central government. They were not done by only a certain prefecture and some chauvinists,’’ Roh said.
Roh’s statement is expected trigger a stir in relations between Seoul and Tokyo.
It is the first time for Roh to make a stand on the recent thorny issues although he earlier instructed the Cabinet to set up an independent organization to tackle them.
Roh noted Koizumi’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine greatly undermined the authenticity of the apologies made by former Japanese leaders.
``Japan also justified its attack on Korea and denied Korea’s liberation by declaring Takeshima Day on the day when Japan forcibly included Tokto to its territory 100 years ago,’’ he said.
He vowed to make efforts to persuade the international community concerning the issues. ``If Japan attempts to become a dominating nation in Asia, it needs to appropriately act and gain trust from the international community as a peace-loving nation.’’
His remark was interpreted as renewing of Seoul’s opposition to Japan’s bid to become a member of the United Nations Security Council.
Roh noted he foresees there may be a war of diplomacy in the process as it will dwindle exchanges in various sectors like economy and culture, thus bringing about a negative impact upon the nation’s economy.
``But I believe the people don’t have to worry about it too much as we have already been equipped with enough capability to cope with the matter,’’ he said.
He called on the people to be patient and refrain from provoking the Japanese people by resorting to emotional responses as ``such war will not end in a day.’’
``We will root out (such misbehaviors) this time so that the people can see a more tangible outcome,’’ Roh added.