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Hatoyama says ‘radioactive contamination not under control’

optimize.jpgFormer Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama speaks during an exclusive interview with The Korea Times at the newspaper’s headquarters in Seoul, Thursday.

 

September 2, 2019

The Japanese government has tried to convince the world with an extensive propaganda campaign to claim any persisting dangers from the Fukushima nuclear disaster are under control ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Recently, concerns have been mounting among the South Korean government and international environmental groups such as Greenpeace about reports of Japan’s plan to release radioactive water into the sea off the coast of Fukushima. Korean political parties have also taken issue with the possible radioactive contamination of food that will be provided to athletes at the Olympics. Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama showed concern about the Shinzo Abe administration’s handling of the radioactive water situation and called for urgent action for the reconstruction of Fukushima. The following are edited questions and answers from The Korea Times interview with the former Japanese leader. ― ED.

Former Japanese PM slams Abe over economic retaliation against Seoul

Q. The deteriorating relations between South Korea and Japan created by the forced labor issue has expanded to economic and security areas. How do you interpret the current relations between the two countries?

A. I express deep regret that Japan-South Korea relations are in such a difficult situation. Japan and South Korea had been learning from each other in their long history and were able to build trust. Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula, and this caused a great deal of pain for Koreans. As one of the Japanese people, I am very sorry that this historical issue has led to a deteriorating relationship between Seoul and Tokyo.

Q. Japan’s Abe administration appears to consider the current disputes between South Korea and Japan as a matter of trust. Meanwhile, President Moon Jae-in said South Korea will join hands with Japan if it chooses dialogue. However, Seoul decided not to extend the military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan. The two countries seem to be taking hawkish stances against each other. What makes the two think differently?

A. Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula in the past. As a result, Korea was divided into two. During the process, Japan made people on the peninsula suffer. I think [the differences in the stances between Seoul and Japan are] rooted in history. Japan says that the current problems were settled in the bilateral treaty made in 1965. The problem is that the [individual] rights to seek compensation are not settled in the agreement. The Japanese government had the understanding in the past that individuals can demand compensation. In 1991, Shunji Yanai, then director of the treaty bureau at Japan’s foreign ministry, made it clear during a parliamentary session that the treaty did put an end to the right to demand compensation between countries. He said it did not apply to individuals’ final and complete compensation. I think this is the official stance of Japan. But it seems the current Abe administration is reversing its stance. Because the current government started saying that the problem has been solved, it became a matter of trust. I think Japan’s side should not say such a thing and should face the reality of history with a humble mind.

Q. On Aug. 28, Japan implemented the removal of South Korea from its whitelist of trusted trading partners. Why do you think the Japanese government removed Seoul from its list? And is this appropriate?

A. In conclusion, it is not appropriate. The Japanese government claims that it is not relevant to the forced labor issue
and it is about security issues. It says it tried to ask South Korea to improve its control of traded goods, but it ended up removing Seoul as South Korea did not respond to Japan’s request while claiming that its measures are not trade restrictions or embargos. But I think South Korea relates the removal to the forced labor issue. The Japanese government may think the problem was solved already, but the South’s Supreme Court made such a ruling. I think it is valid to think that the emotional issue led to the removal.

I asked [the government] about it, but it didn’t give me an answer claiming it cannot say anything. If it was a matter of controlling trade, Japan should have continued to strongly ask South Korea to improve its system between officials, rather than removing the country at this time. I assume that there would have been some orders from the Prime Minister’s Office of Japan in an apparent response to the South’s court ruling. I think the measure should be lifted.

Q. The United States government is likely pressuring South Korea to cancel the decision to end the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and have meaningful dialogues between South Korea and Japan. If Seoul and Tokyo continue to take strong measures against each other, what will happen to security in the East Asia region?

A. I think, since last year, the political situation on the Korean Peninsula is heading toward peace. The Japanese government should join hands to create peace with the two Koreas and with the U.S. and North Korea. The GSOMIA has its meaning when the North continues to develop its nuclear missiles. But when peace is around with Pyongyang, it may be necessary to reconsider the meaning of keeping it. I heard that the necessity of the GSOMIA for Japan and the U.S. is to cope with China. In that sense, the GSOMIA is still necessary. It might be necessary for both Seoul and Tokyo to extend the pact with the mediation of the U.S. in a way to restore trust. If the U.S. agrees [with the cancellation of Japan’s removal of South Korea from its whitelist and the South’s extension of the GSOMIA], there is a possibility Japan would add Seoul in the whitelist again.

Q. Some claim Japan’s pressure against South Korea is to raise Abe’s support rating. Actually, Abe appears to be gaining popularity through it. He also openly talks about his ambition for the revision of the Constitution, which is gaining a lot of attention in South Korea. Do you think Abe really wants to revise the Constitution? Or is this part of his ambition to restore militarism?

A. I am not Abe. So I would not be able to tell what he really thinks. But what I can say is Japanese people, especially young people, don’t know history. And the young people have no memory that Japan made its growth amid its slump for several decades. Facing South Korea and China which are making strong remarks, people prefer a politician who makes likewise remarks such as “I will make Japan stronger.” It is true that the world is shifting to the right and nationalism is gaining power. Prime Minister Abe is good at promoting it. But I don’t think the situation will make it easier to revise the Constitution. Of course, Japan is on its way to be able to start a war. But as some half of Japanese oppose the idea of the revision, it would be difficult for Abe, who is gaining support by claiming it, to push for it.

Q. The liberal governments run by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) put their efforts into improving relations between the two countries and succeeded to a certain extent. But with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) back in power, the relations deteriorated. How do you think Abe positions South Korea in diplomatic relations?

A. The DPJ wanted to rule the country with liberal philosophy. In particular, it wanted to establish more trust with such neighboring countries as China and South Korea. And it also tried to make more Asia-centered policies and diplomacy rather than prioritizing the U.S.; this approach also existed in the LDP as well. But along with the collapse of the Tanaka faction, led by former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, the so-called liberal politicians inside the LDP became a minority, meaning fewer people criticize Abe. Abe is cleverly using the media by building good relationships with them. And the Japanese media don’t criticize the government’s rightward drift or nationalism. Abe cannot resolve the problems of Japanese abductees by North Korean spies and establish diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea unless he builds a better relationship with South Korea. I cannot clearly see the government’s relationship roadmap with the South.

Q. There are rising concerns over the Fukushima nuclear issue before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. According to Greenpeace, the Japanese government hopes to release more than 1 million tons of highly radioactive water into the sea off the coast of Fukushima. Do you have any comments on that?

A. I strongly suspected the situation that Japan was able to host the Olympics after Abe claimed that the radioactive contamination issue is under control by his government. But it is not under control. Releasing the massive amount of contaminated water sparked a big debate [in Japan]. However, Japanese media and the government try not to speak about it. I’m extremely worried as the date of the Olympics approaches, which is somewhat natural to do so. Athletes who participate in the games should not be contaminated by radioactivity. I’m one of the people who have long insisted that the government should spend more money on the reconstruction of Fukushima rather than into the Olympics.

Q. Some people in the LDP may have started to raise their voices against the Abe administration. I read that Rep. Shigeru Ishiba, a member of the LDP and Japan’s House of Representatives, wrote “There are many problems created by the fact that Japan didn’t take responsibility for the war after being defeated in the past and those are surfacing now.” Many Japanese citizens participate in campaigns to criticize the government. Do you think these moves can spread to the change of the current administration? Do you have any idea to achieve cooperation between the two countries at any level?

A. I respect Ishiba for speaking out critically on the government’s policies, including the whitelist issue. It is very difficult for anyone to directly criticize the party or the Prime Minister’s Office of Japan other than popular politicians under the single-member constituency as it is related to securing the recommendation from the party for elections. Moreover, the media is controlled by the office, self-examining for the government.

But I think there are many people behind who potentially don’t agree with what Abe is doing. The increase of the number of LDP seats does not necessarily mean it did well and gained popularity; it’s because the opposition parties have split up. Therefore, the most important thing is that the grassroots and the private sector should unite and communicate with the Korean people through social media. It is important in democracy to take various actions to make changes in policies. In this context, it is important to create opportunities in which experts from Japan and South Korea work together to raise voices against the Abe administration.

Q. Any more comments?

A. I hope the situation would come that both Japanese and Korean people can learn from each other as they did in the past for a long time. In order to do so, I think when Japanese citizens can show that they understand the aggressor should remain humble and keep making an apology until the victim can forgive, Korean people can understand Japanese people. Right now, what we need is to make efforts between private sectors of the two countries and not to hate each other even though both governments are not in a good time.
https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2019/09/356_274905.html

 

September 8, 2019 - Posted by | fukushima 2019 | ,

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