Japan tries to ease South Korea's concern over military role

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 20, 2015 5:15 AM

SEOUL (Reuters) - Japan's defense chief on Tuesday sought to ease South Korea's concerns about Tokyo's shift to allow its military to fight overseas, saying it won't do anything to contravene international law.

Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani met his South Korean counterpart, Han Min-koo, amid a diplomatic push by South Korea, Japan and China to resume a three-way summit, with a meeting possibly as early as next month in Seoul after a more than three-year break.

"Minister Nakatani explained Japan's security legislation and the fact that when the Self Defense Force operates in other countries' territories, the relevant countries' approval will be sought under international law," a joint statement said.

South Korea has expressed concern about Japan's move to allow its troops to fight overseas in a shift away from the limits placed by its pacifist constitution drawn up after the war, saying Japanese forces will not be allowed on to the Korean peninsula without its agreement.

The legacy of World War two still haunts Japan's relations with China and South Korea, which suffered under Japan's sometimes brutal occupation and colonial rule before Tokyo's defeat in 1945.

Japan's new security law, passed last month by parliament, has triggered protests from ordinary Japanese and others who say it violates the constitution and could ensnare Japan in U.S.-led conflicts.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has not had a summit with South Korean President Geun-hye since taking office in December 2012 because of tensions over history and territory.

The United States is keen to encourage better relations between South Korea and Japan, its two biggest allies in Asia, given concerns about North Korea and an increasingly assertive China.

Park said on Thursday that she hoped the three-way summit would help clear obstacles to better relations with Tokyo and boost stability in Northeast Asia.

Park has worked to improve ties with China, which is South Korea's biggest trading partner, and raised some eyebrows in Washington when she attended Beijing's military parade to mark the end of World War Two last month.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Nick Macfie)