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News: Korea in intensifying row between China, Japan

News from Korean media sourcesKorea's protests over Japan's claims to Dokdo have been sidelined as the history row has expanded in Northeast Asia, with China becoming the most fervent protester against Japan.

Although the magnitude of anti-Japan campaigns is strong in Korea, China's violent rallies have visibly outshone those in Korea, bringing the international spotlight on relations between China and Japan instead.

Experts here say that while the history confrontation in Northeast Asia is grave and may rattle the general sentiment of peace in the region, the changing situation may work to Korea's benefit.

"With China's vehement protests, Korea can take a relatively calmer and more considerate position, and collaborate with China on an appropriate level," said Prof. Kim Tae-hyo of Sungkyunkwan University.

In the midst of the history brawl, President Roh Moo-hyun reflected the changing order in Northeast Asia by publicly stating Korea's new role as the "balancer" of the region.

While it would be overanalyzing to say the recent history standoff will link to Korea's new ambition as the balancer, Korea can use this to showcase its diplomacy and maturity, experts say.

"We do not have to associate our response with China's, but act on our own and show mature measures against Japan's (history distortion)," said Prof. Shin Ji-ho of Sogang University.

"This could also become an opportunity to differentiate Korea from other nations," Shin said.

Talk of cooperation with China sprouted when Japan revealed on April 5 the new set of textbooks for use in secondary schools from next year.

Koreans fumed at exclusions of Japan's military aggression in the textbooks, such as Korean men's forced enlistment to the Japanese army and Korean women serving as sex slaves. Also, some of the textbooks carried new parts describing that Korea was illegally controlling Dokdo.

Chinese similarly complained that the textbooks neglected details of Japan's invasion and massacre of China.

Emotional protests continued across Korea, including one protester cutting off the tip of a finger in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, and Korean lawmakers paying a visit to Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura.

In China, a foreign ministerial meeting opened over the weekend in Beijing but closed without any results when China's Li Zhaoxing flatly refused Machimura's demand for prompt countermeasures by the Chinese government to calm the rallies.

About 100,000 Chinese gathered in Shanghai for a violent rally on Saturday, while other smaller-scale protests broke out in more than 10 other cities on Sunday.

While talks of collaboration between China and Korea in confronting Japan have been popular, experts say there would have to be limits as the nature of the protests differs.

"The two countries can work together by launching private research teams and so forth, but the issues of Korea and those of China are different and thus should remain different," Prof. Kim Tae-hyo said.

According to experts, there are domestic demands and cir*****stances for both China and Japan that make it difficult.

"Because of domestic issues, China and Japan cannot throw each other negotiating cards, meaning Korea can take on the role of a negotiator," Jin Chang-soo, senior researcher at private Sejong Institute, was quoted as saying by Yonhap news a gency.

Korea has also focused more on Japan's new claims over Dokdo, which it considers as Japan's challenge to Korea's sovereignty.

Upon the liberation after 35 years under Japan's imperialist control in 1945, Korea regained full sovereignty, and has been keeping a small police detachment on the islands.

In time, with Japan's aggrandizing claims over the islands, Korea became more outspoken in heralding Korea's sovereignty of Dokdo, a move that the government has been refraining to take to prevent the issue from becoming an international dispute.

"The aggravating relations over the history textbook have effectively put the Dokdo problem back on the back shelf -- a development that is very desirable for Korea," said Prof. Kim Tae-hyo.

Korea's Foreign Ministry, nonetheless, expressed deep concern over the magnifying history face-off in the region that is already overwrought with North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

A Foreign Ministry official emphasized the basic principle that a country can only benefit the most when neighboring countries remain on good terms.

While urging an end to violent protests, the official added Japan should learn from this the importance of correct interpretation of history. (angiely@heraldm.com)

By Lee Joo-hee


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