In annual policy speech, Abe omits passage on ties with South Korea
Japan Times -- Jan 29
Breaking with precedent, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday removed from his annual policy speech a paragraph outlining his vision for Japan’s ties with South Korea, in a possible reflection of the neighbors’ increasingly tumultuous relationship.

On the day that marked the opening of this year’s 150-day regular Diet session, Abe delivered his seventh policy speech since his return to power in December 2012. In the speech Abe afforded South Korea only a passing reference, as he stressed the importance of “closely coordinating with the international community, in particular Washington and Seoul,” to deal with nuclear-armed North Korea.

The speech — delivered each year at the start of the ordinary Diet session — was a departure from previous policy addresses that have seen Abe dedicate a whole paragraph detailing his desire to promote what he had often called “future-oriented” relations with Seoul.

The intention behind the omission was unclear, but Abe’s speech came on the heels of surging tensions between Tokyo and Seoul.

Late last year, South Korea’s Supreme Court ruled that several Japanese companies must compensate South Koreans over wartime forced labor, sparking stern protest from Japanese officials. Tokyo also said earlier this month that it would discontinue working-level talks with Seoul over the flare-up of a so-called “radar lock-on” spat, after both sides failed to reconcile amid weeks of recriminations.

To be sure, Abe’s shifting rhetoric on South Korea was already evident in his speech last January, when he jettisoned the conventional description of the country as Japan’s “most important” neighbor.

At the time, Abe’s administration had been furious over South Korea’s sudden demand for an apology over wartime “comfort women” — a euphemism used to refer to women who provided sex, including those who did so against their will, for Japanese troops before and during World War II.

Tokyo saw the move as Seoul’s effective desertion of a 2015 bilateral agreement that had been said to resolve the long-standing issue “finally and irreversibly.”

News source: Japan Times
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