Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense on Thursday denied reports that the United Nations Command is seeking Japanese involvement in its operations.
“Japan was not a combatant in the Korean War, so cannot become a sending state,” a Defense Ministry official said, ruling out the possibility of Japan sending troops or participating in the UNC without Seoul’s involvement.
A sending state is a country that provides troops, materials and other support necessary in a war situation. Excluding South Korea and the US, there are currently 16 sending states that are part of the UNC. The US-led UNC comprises 18 nations: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the US.
“(Japanese personnel) working as staff of the UNC is only possible through consultations with our Defense Ministry,” the official said.
A local news outlet had reported earlier in the day that the UNC may be seeking to involve Japan in its operations, which would raise the possibility of Japanese military becoming involved in a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, citing the UNC’s annually published strategy digest.
According to a UNC official, however, the document does not state that Japan will be sending troops to Korea in case of conflict on the peninsula.
“Rear base of the UNC is in Japan, so forces arrive in the rear base,” a UNC official said.
The official added that there appears to have been some issue in the translation process.
The English version of the UNC’s strategy digest states, “Additionally, UNC continues to ensure the support and force flow through Japan that would be necessary in times of crisis.”
“(The term) through Japan means materials and forces arriving (in Korea) from Japan was expressed as ‘through Japan,’” the UNC official said.
The sentence in the Korean language version of the document, however, is more open to interpretation. The language used in the Korean version translates as: “the UNC will maintain with Japan the support and force cooperation necessary in times of crisis.”
Meanwhile, the US is said to have been seeking to expand the UNC’s role and participation from more countries. According to local news reports citing unnamed South Korean government sources, the UNC had planned to install a German liaison officer without consulting South Korea. The plan was called off after a German defense official raised the issue with a South Korean official at the Asia Security Summit in May.
According to the reports, the South Korean official reported the issue to Cheong Wa Dae, and the National Security Office is now handling it. A high-level Cheong Wa Dae official, however, denied knowledge of the matter Thursday.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com