The Yomiuri ShimbunIf the solidarity among Japan, the United States and South Korea is disturbed, it will be even more difficult to denuclearize North Korea. The three nations need to continue talks and closely cooperate in this respect.
Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya held talks with Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo in Singapore. They agreed to continue urging North Korea to completely denuclearize in a verifiable and irreversible manner.
While the United States and others are looking for a diplomatic solution to the matter, the North continues to carry out provocative acts, such as short-range ballistic missile launches. Actions that heighten regional tensions cannot be tolerated. It was timely for the Japanese, U.S. and South Korean defense ministers to share pertinent information and coordinate their policies.
In a joint statement, the three nations clearly stated they would aim for full implementation of the resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on the North.
North Korea is repeatedly carrying out ship-to-ship cargo transfers at sea. To prevent the North from smuggling goods, it is indispensable for the international community to increase its watch on the country. Japan, the United States and South Korea should play a leading role in this task.
There is no denying that there is a difference in the stances taken by the three nations toward North Korea. U.S. President Donald Trump does not see the short-range ballistic missile launches as a problem, while the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in has adopted a conciliatory stance.
It is essential to ensure North Korean denuclearization is not adversely impacted, through various kinds of government-to-government dialogue.
Avoid stoking tensions
Iwaya held informal talks with his South Korean counterpart prior to the three-way meeting of defense ministers. He protested about an incident in which the South Korean Navy directed fire-control radar at a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force plane in December.
Although the South Korean defense minister denied the facts cited, Japan should tenaciously urge South Korea to prevent a repeat of a similar incident.
What is questionable is that the South Korean military has established new operational guidelines under which military planes of a foreign power that approach South Korean Navy vessels are issued warnings using fire-control radar.
Measures that needlessly increase tensions between neighboring countries must be avoided. It is important for the Japanese government to join hands with the United States in urging South Korea to retract the guidelines.
The Moon administration has strained the Japan-South Korea relationship through repeated anti-Japan statements and behavior in connection with such matters as the issue of former requisitioned workers. Despite this situation, it is important for Japanese and South Korean defense authorities to constantly hold working-level talks.
A course of action must be pursued to improve relations between the two nations through meetings of their defense ministers and exchanges between uniformed personnel. Japan and South Korea, both U.S. allies, should build a relationship of cooperation that will contribute to regional stability.
The United States and South Korea have suspended or downsized large-scale joint military exercises simulating a North Korea-linked emergency. Doubts cannot be dispelled about these moves, which could cause a decline in their capabilities to rapidly respond to such a situation.
It is vital to promote security cooperation through such measures as joint drills among Japan, the United States and South Korea, and strive to maintain powers of deterrence.