Tokyo needs Seoul's 'tactit' consent for collective self-defense: expert

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 (Yonhap) -- Pushing to exercise its right to "collective self-defense," Japan should make a "sincere effort" to explain its intent, especially to South Korea, a U.S. congressional researcher said Tuesday.

"Gaining South Korea's tacit assent at least for a policy change would be a really positive step for trilateral security cooperation," said Ian E. Rinehart, an analyst at the Congressional Research Service.

Speaking at a forum hosted by the East-West Center in Washington, he expressed sympathy over Koreans' growing concerns about the Abe administration's move to expand its military role.

At the center of the controversy is Tokyo's campaign to reinterpret its Constitution to remove restrictions on the right to collective self-defense. If exercised, the right would enable Japan to use force against any military attack on its allies or other nations with whom it has a "very close relationship."

For example, Japan would be allowed to intercept North Korean ballistic missiles targeting Guam or other U.S. territories.

Japan's role in international peacekeeping operations and non-combat support for U.S.-led wars is also expected to sharply increase.

South Korea and some other Asian nations have lingering misgivings about Japan's intentions. Many view the move as re-militarization, even as Japanese leaders have neglected to atone for the nation's imperialistic past, including the 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

A sense of alarm has grown since Japan's pursuit of the right to collective self-defense won support from the Obama administration in the two-plus-two talks in Tokyo early this month.

Rinehart said the U.S. may become more aggressive in publicizing the potential positive effects on regional security.

"The United States may also choose to play a role, most likely behind the scenes, in a communication strategy to explain to its Asia-Pacific allies the benefits of collective self-defense for Japan," he said.

Some in Tokyo prefer that the U.S. act as a mediator to gain the understanding of South Korean leaders, he added.

As to South Korean people's worries that Japanese troops will be deployed on the peninsula, it would be effectively impossible without Seoul's consent.

"I think the likelihood of that is almost impossibly small," Rinehart said. "It would be a nightmare for Japan and probably a lot of other countries."

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>