Roh sees 'diplomatic war' with Japan
March 24, 2005 - Using unusually strong language, President Roh Moo-hyun criticized Japan yesterday, saying that Tokyo's policies and offenses have reached a point that South Korea can no longer tolerate.
In a letter to the public, released in a Blue House gazette, Mr. Roh said that a "diplomatic war" is conceivable between the two countries. Korea, he said, would ask Japan to reconsider its record of justifying past damage it had done to its neighbors.
"We cannot sit back and watch Japan justify its history of aggression and colonization and pursue hegemonic power again," Mr. Roh said. "The issue concerns the future of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia."
Mr. Roh's pointed remarks promise to raise the tension in the recent disputes over the Dokdo islands, history textbooks and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's frequent visits to a shrine where war criminals are honored.
Denouncing a Japanese prefecture's introduction of "Takeshima Day" and Tokyo's alleged history distortions, Mr. Roh said, "These issues annul Japan's previous apologies for the past. Such acts do not just belong to some Japanese rightist groups or local governments. They were done with the tacit permit of the central Japanese government and are thus acts of Japan."
"Takeshima Day is the day Japan seized Dokdo 100 years ago," Mr. Roh continued. "Designating Takeshima Day justifies Japan's aggression and denies Korea's liberation."
Takeshima is the Japanese name for Dokdo. Shimane Prefecture declared earlier this month that it would celebrate Feb. 22 as Takeshima Day each year.
Mr. Roh promised resolute measures against Japan. "First of all, we will ask the Japanese government to redress its policies. We will ask relentlessly," he said. "The next thing is to resort to international public opinion. International opinion respects universal values and order. If Japan wants to become a leading country in the world, it should restore trust from international communities."
Mr. Roh said the government so far has been silent, and that may have prompted Japanese actions.
Blue House officials said Mr. Roh himself had prepared the letter over the last five days. They said he put the final touches on it yesterday.
In a related development, Culture Minister Chung Dong-chae told lawmakers yesterday that it is worth reviewing a plan to populate Dokdo.
He was replying to a lawmaker who said, "Let's populate Dokdo so the island can be internationally recognized as Korean territory."
Yoo Hong-jun, who heads the Cultural Properties Administration, told lawmakers, "We will let the public travel to Dokdo starting April 30."
Also, a government official said yesterday the Education Ministry, academics and civic groups will ask Japan to stop the distribution of Japanese history textbooks that they say glosses over the country's wartime past.