Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that under a bilateral security arrangement, U.S. Forces Japan is required to secure Tokyo’s understanding should it want to send its marines to the Korean Peninsula in the event of contingencies here.
His remarks at a parliamentary session on Tuesday triggered concerns in Korea that Tokyo’s political calculations could impede the rapid deployment of U.S. troops to the country if conflict occurs on the peninsula.
“U.S. marines depart from Japan. As (that) is an issue that requires prior consultation (between the U.S. and Japan), (the marines) cannot rush to the defense of South Korea without Japan’s understanding,” Abe was quoted as saying by Kyodo News.
A senior Seoul official said that the U.S. military augmentation in the event of peninsular contingencies would proceed as planned under the bilateral security treaty and joint operational plans.
“Augmented U.S. forces will be deployed to the peninsula as planned in the bilateral security arrangements between Seoul and Washington,” said the official, declining to be named.
“But it is inappropriate for the Seoul government to talk about the U.S.-Japan agreement about using the facilities of U.S. Forces Japan (in the event of peninsular contingencies).”
Abe’s remarks at parliament came as concerns in South Korea have risen over Japan’s recent adoption of the reinterpretation of the war-renouncing Article 9 of its constitution to allow for collective self-defense, or the use of force to aid allies under attack.
During the parliamentary session, Abe said, “I want to help (South Korea) clearly understand the scope (of Japan’s exercise of the right to collective self-defense) is extremely limited. There needs to be close cooperation among South Korea, the U.S. and Japan.”
Asked if Japan would use its right to collective self-defense in the case of territorial confrontations in the South China Sea between China and any of the Southeast Asian countries, Abe did not rule out the possibility.
“We will make a comprehensive judgment on a case-by-case basis in line with our three conditions enabling the use of force,” he said.
Japan has set three preconditions for the use of force: when a country with close ties to Japan is attacked; when the attack threatens Japan’s security; and when there is a clear concern that the attack could threaten Japanese people’s lives, freedom and right to pursue happiness.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly requested that the Japanese leader refrain from visiting North Korea, arguing that his visit could undermine the cooperation among South Korea, the U.S. and Japan against Pyongyang’s nuclear development.
Kyodo News reported that Kerry also urged Tokyo to exercise more caution about lifting some of its anti-North Korea sanctions during his telephone talks with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida last Monday.
Tokyo decided to lift some of its sanctions against Pyongyang after they agreed to reinvestigate the North’s kidnapping of Japanese nationals. The kidnapping issue is an important political issue for Japanese leaders, while the communist state has sought to gain economic assistance from Tokyo.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)