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New Japanese envoy speaks on Korea ties

Published : 2013-01-15 19:55:34

Japanese Ambassador to Seoul Koro Bessho on Tuesday expressed optimism that Korea and Japan should forge a future-oriented relationship under their new leaders despite simmering diplomatic disputes.

“I think it is very important for the two leaders, Madame Park Geun-hye and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to try to iron out our relationship,” Bessho said at a lecture held in Seoul. “I am optimistic that we can try to look for a relationship with a stable future,” he added.

Bessho also defended Tokyo’s plan to increase its defense budget which had raised concerns among neighboring countries.

Abe’s government unveiled a plan last week to increase its military spending for the first time in 11 years amid a fierce territorial dispute with China.

“Every time I hear that Japan is about to become a military giant, I think it is simply incorrect. It is perhaps an increase, but we’re talking about increasing (defense expenditures) from last year, after 10 years of reduction,” he said.
Japan’s Ambassador to Seoul Koro Bessho (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Japan’s Ambassador to Seoul Koro Bessho (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

The ambassador said he became highly hopeful for President-elect Park after meeting her on Jan. 4, with a special delegation sent by Abe.

“She was saying that what is important in foreign policy and foreign relations is the relationship of trust. I think envoys were impressed, seeing her personality as well as foundation for her policy,” he said at a lecture hosted by Asia Society, a nonprofit organization.

With nationalist leader Abe having returned to the premiership last month, concern has been rising that his government including ultra-conservative ministers would spur Japan’s rightward shift and escalate territorial and historical disputes with Seoul and Beijing.

Public sentiment against Japan has worsened in recent years due to Japan’s repeated claim to sovereignty over Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo, its distortion of historical facts, and its failure to apologize to Korean women forced into sexual slavery during World War II.

Asked of his position on territorial and historical spats between Korea and Japan, Bessho said he does not want to see the bilateral relationship disrupted by those disputes, adding that Japan understands the suffering it caused people in the past.

“We don’t want the whole relationship (to break apart) because of the certain issues we have. The most important thing is that we understand the differences and try to manage them.”

Stressing the positive impact of Korean dramas on Japanese people, the ambassador urged Seoul to allow TV stations to air Japanese TV dramas to give a better understanding of Japan.

“Japanese TV dramas are forbidden by Korean law to be viewed on Korean television. That is unfortunate. If Japanese dramas are allowed on Korean TV, I am sure that it will give a great impact on understanding Japan,” he said.

By Cho Chung-un (

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