South Korea

South Korea warns of Japan’s shift to the right

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 3:21pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 3:24pm


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South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan warned on Thursday of signs of a rightward shift in Japanese politics, including an increasingly aggressive stance on territorial issues.

Kim’s remarks followed last week’s decision by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to dissolve parliament and call a general election next month.

“Overall, the political situation in Japan is showing signs of a rightward shift and some say Japan is increasingly becoming nationalistic,” Yonhap news agency quoted the minister as telling a business forum in Seoul.

“We are closely watching the situation and will be prepared to cope with it,” Kim said.

“Japan is becoming more conservative and aggressive over territorial matters and [we] need to watch out for that,” he added.

Early polls suggest Japan’s main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), headed by former premier Shinzo Abe, will emerge as the single biggest party in the December 16 election.

On Wednesday, the LDP unveiled a series of policy priorities, including pledges to look at establishing a permanent presence on uninhabited Tokyo-controlled islands at the centre of a dispute with China.

It also promised a review of the self-imposed ban on defending allies, raising the possibility of Japanese troops returning fire if US forces come under attack.

South Korea is currently locked in its own territorial dispute with Japan over a set of isolated islands, called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese, that lie midway between the two countries.

“Again, I would like to make it clear that we will not compromise with Japan with regard to territorial and history-related issues,” Kim said.

Meanwhile, South Korea plans to go ahead with a delayed rocket launch on Thursday next week in its third bid in four years to put a satellite into orbit, officials said.

If all goes as scheduled, the 140-tonne rocket will lift off from the Naro Space Centre on the south coast, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said.

The project has been plagued with problems, with failed attempts in 2009 and 2010. A successful launch this time is considered crucial to South Korea’s commercial space ambitions. The Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 will deploy a small satellite that will mainly collect data on space radiation.