(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Aug. 16)

Upgrading trilateral cooperation to new level

President Yoon Suk Yeol stressed the importance of security and economic cooperation between Korea and Japan in his speech to mark the 78th anniversary of the liberation. “Japan is a partner who shares the same universal values with us and pursues common interests,” he said. The president has ratcheted up the tone of cooperation with Japan compared to his past addresses. Thanks to the move, the two countries’ relations are back on track, as seen in the revived shuttle diplomacy.

Amid the new Cold War resulting from the U.S.-China contest and Ukraine war, Korea-Japan and Korea-U.S.-Japan cooperation on security is critical. Yoon underscored the need for close cooperation to share their reconnaissance assets in real time to block Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile provocation.

The president also reminded the public of the importance of the seven rear bases of the United Nations Command in Japan, including the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, to provide reinforcements at times of crisis. He defined the reinforcements as the strongest deterrence against North Korea’s invasion.

Yoon’s speech came three days before the tripartite summit in Camp David on Friday. The president was convinced of a new milestone for the trilateral cooperation. After the Camp David summit, the tripartite summit and joint military exercise could be held regularly. The three countries are reportedly considering announcing a Camp David principle separate from a joint statement. In that case, the tripartite summit could develop into a new security consultative body beyond the QUAD.

But Yoon stopped short of mentioning the planned discharge of the wastewater from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. It could have been better if he had persuaded the public to move toward a better future now. Over the release of the contaminated water from Fukushima, Korea and Japan must cooperate until the last minute. Over history issues, Tokyo must show a more forward-looking attitude than before. Regrettably, however, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Cabinet members paid their respects or sent offerings Tuesday to the Yasukuni Shrine.

Mentioning the meaning of the 70th anniversary of the alliance, the president strongly criticized “anti-state forces” for “blindly following Communist totalitarianism, distorting public opinion and disturbing our society.” He denounced them for behaving as if they were democracy fighters and human rights activists. In reaction, the Democratic Party attacked the president for a “monologue akin to far-right YouTubers.” The president’s use of combative language on Liberation Day instead of spearheading national integration is undesirable.

Source: Yonhap News Agency