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South Korea Accepts Comfort Women Pact

SNA (Tokyo) — This Week in Japan is your source for news and information about politics and other happenings in this East Asian island country. This episode covers the Top Five stories of the second week of January 2018.

South Korea opted to forego any attempt to renegotiate the December 2015 Comfort Women agreement with Japan, but did make some adjustments. President Moon Jae-In expressed his personal opinion that the issue wouldn’t really be solved until the Comfort Women had received a credible, heartfelt apology from Japan. The Abe government was having none of it. Through clenched teeth they repeated that South Korea simply needed to enforce the previous agreement and Japan had absolutely nothing more to offer. The Moon government seemed unlikely to push much further, but at the same time it was hard to say that the old wounds were truly healing.

On a more positive front, North Korea and South Korea resumed direct talks after several years and there was a considerable relaxation of bilateral tensions. Military hotlines were reestablished, and concrete discussions about cooperation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics proceeded. North Korea continued to clearly draw a line, demanding that nuclear disarmament was not a subject to be negotiated about. Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-In did what he could to assure Washington that he still valued and depended upon the US alliance.

One person who was discussing nuclear weapons disarmament was Beatrice Fihn, Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, who was on a visit to Japan. She was very warmly received in Nagasaki and in Hiroshima, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refused to meet the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, claiming to be to busy. The Abe government had been ice-cold since the Nobel committee honored Ms. Fihn’s organization, and the prime minister’s attitude of contempt toward the idea of outlawing nuclear weapons continued unabated.

Top executives of the Party of Hope and the Democratic Party agreed to form a united parliamentary caucus in the Diet, which would make them the largest single opposition force, displacing the progressive Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. From the outset it was rough sailing for the new combination, as it seemed likely that at least some lawmakers would resign from the grouping, and it had roughly zero basis in terms of public support.

Yet another US Marine helicopter crash landed in Okinawa, this time on a beach in Yomitan village. The authorities in Okinawa again demanded that the helicopter fleet be grounded until serious countermeasures against accidents were put in place, and again the US military ignored the demands. And, to top it off, the Abe government once again refused to faithfully represent the Okinawan peoples’ views to the US government.

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