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06TOKYO4453 2006-08-08 09:25:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tokyo
Cable title:  

THE "COLLAPSE OF TRUST" IN JAPAN - ROK RELATIONS

Tags:   PREL PGOV KS JA 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TOKYO 004453 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y///ADDED CLASSBY STATEMENT////////////

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/08/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV KS JA
SUBJECT: THE "COLLAPSE OF TRUST" IN JAPAN - ROK RELATIONS

TOKYO 00004453 001.2 OF 002


CLASSIFIED BY POL OFFICER KEITH JORDAN REASON 1.4 (d) (g)



1. (C) Summary. Japan-ROK relations presently suffer from a
&collapse of trust,8 according to Prof. Masao Okonogi, a
leading Japanese expert on Korea. Upcoming elections for
prime minister of Japan and for president of the ROK will
impact the future course of the bilateral relationship,
Okonogi believes. Okonogi asserts that ROK President Roh has
surrounded himself with anti-U.S. and anti-Japan advisers.
Okonogi opined that Abe,s close relationship with abductee
family support groups would create a higher &hurdle8 in
Japan-DPRK relations. This downbeat assessment mirrors an
annual ROK-Japan mirror poll showing public perception of
bilateral relations at an all-time low. End Summary.

Japan-ROK Relations


--------------------------





2. (C) In a July 27 conversation with Embassy Tokyo
political officers, Korea expert Masao Okonogi, Dean of the
Faculty of Law, Keio University, described current Japan-ROK
relations as characterized by a &collapse of trust8 between
top-level officials. Though government-to-government
relations are at a low point, people-to-people contacts
remain good, with thousands of visitors and billions of
dollars in trade exchanged between the two countries.
Okonogi cited the need for the leaders to take steps to
restore trust as a way of improving the bilateral
relationship.



3. (C) Three upcoming elections in Japan and the ROK would
affect the future course of bilateral relations: a) the LDP
presidential election in September 2006, (b) Japan,s Upper
House election in July 2007, and c) the ROK presidential
election in December 2007, Okonogi related. Although Chief
Cabinet Secretary Abe,s anticipated election as prime
minister would not immediately affect Japan-ROK relations,
Okonogi suggested that Abe is a realist capable of dealing in
a pragmatic way with the ROK.



4. (C) Echoing comments made by other analysts of
Korea-Japan relations, Okonogi observed that communication
between mid- and senior-level Japanese and ROK
parliamentarians, which had once been quite strong, had all
but disappeared. There appeared to be little incentive for
today,s politicians to rebuild them. The current ROK
administration, with a considerable number of what Okonogi
described as &leftist nationalists8 has little interest in
developing close relations with Japan's conservative
politicians. Japan-ROK political interchange will only come
with a shift in power back to the right in South Korea,
Okonogi stated.



5. (C) According to Okonogi, ROK President Roh has surrounded
himself with advisers who are anti-U.S. and anti-Japan
nationalists. As students, these advisors battled to achieve
democratic reforms against a ROK government and military
firmly backed by the United States and Japan and had equated
demonstrations against the government, in a sense, as
protests against the U.S. and Japan. Okonogi believed that
ROK presidential candidate Park Geun-hye, daughter of former
ROK President Park Chung-hee, if elected, might work to
improve relations with Japan. He concluded that most
Japanese were likely to find her brand of nationalist
ideology more acceptable.

Yasukuni


--------------------------





6. (C ) Although Koizumi and Abe both visit Yasukuni Shrine,
Okonogi viewed Abe's visits as "ideological8 in nature,
unlike those of Koizumi. &Abe is cautious about history
while Koizumi isn't,8 he stated. Koizumi and Abe,s
different approaches are reflected by the fact that Koizumi
has referred to &war criminals,8 while Abe has never used
that phrase. Okonogi thought that Abe, should he become
prime minister, would decide against visiting Yasukuni Shrine
on August 15. The recently released memorandum from an aide
to Emperor Hirohito - which revealed that the former emperor
stopped visiting Yasukuni Shrine because Class-A war

TOKYO 00004453 002.2 OF 002


CLASSIFIED BY POL OFFICER KEITH JORDAN REASON 1.4 (d) (g)

criminals were enshrined there - would help Abe deflect some
criticism. However, many of Abe,s conservative supporters
would still be disappointed.

Japan-DPRK Relations


--------------------------





7. (C) Abe and PM Koizumi also differ in their stances
towards relations with DPRK, according to Okonogi. &Despite
U.S. opposition,8 Koizumi visited Pyongyang twice in an
effort to normalize diplomatic relations. &In this light,
the distance from Koizumi to Kim Jong-II is slightly narrower
than that from Abe,8 he said. Abe has expressed strong
support for the families of Japanese abducted by DPRK ) a
factor that has boosted Abe,s popularity. According to
Okonogi, Koizumi rarely met with the abductee families.
Okonogi predicted that Abe's close relationship with abductee
families would make the "hurdle" in Japan-DPRK relations even
higher. Okonogi expressed concern about Japan's recent
attempt to incorporate Chapter VII provisions into a UN
resolution against North Korea, asserting that Japan,s
constitutional prohibition against military action prevented
enforcement by Japan. The adoption of UNSC 1695 was a better
result, he suggested.

DPRK Succession and Power


--------------------------





8. (C) Echoing a view held by some DPRK watchers, Okonogi
stated that Kim Jong Il's eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, would not
likely succeed him. Kim,s other sons, Kim Jong-chol and Kim
Joun-un, were too young. The succession issue is a critical
factor in terms of the future of the DPRK and could easily
trigger its collapse. Okonogi thought it might take another
decade for a next leader to be appointed. He played down any
suggestion that Kim Jong-il was forced to balance competing
factions within the DPRK. Although the DPRK began as a
Stalinist regime with the Worker's Party of Korea (KPW) in
control, the regime later adopted the characteristics of a
&sultanate,8 he explained. The DPRK subsequently became an
&emperor system,8 meshing well with traditional Korean
society, even as it evolved into the present
military-dominated regime. The military is now, in effect,
the government, Okonogi asserted; it is clearly in control.
He suggested that distinct factions had earlier vied for
power, with the WPK being &first among equals.8 Now, the
National Defense Commission, created by Kim Jong-il after
1998 drawing on lessons learned from Russia,s failed coup,
is clearly at the top of the power structure.


Comment


--------------------------





9. (C) Last November, Prof. Okonogi, a well-regarded Korea
expert and long-time Embassy contact, gave an interview in
which he offered a decidedly upbeat view of the future of
Japan-ROK relations. We therefore find his current
pessimistic assessment, 10 months later, to be a telling
indicator of how far the relationship has sunk. His
assessment was confirmed in a public opinion poll conducted
in late June and early July by Yomiuri Shimbun and Seoul's
Hankook Ilbo and released August 7. The survey found that
only 36% of those asked believed Japan-ROK relations were in
good shape -- down 24 points from last year's survey. A
total of 59% thought relations were in bad shape -- up an
equal 24 points over the same period. Pollsters reported
that these were the most negative numbers since the survey
began in 1995. Interlocutors in Tokyo, including in the ROK
Embassy here, are not optimistic that relations will improve
in the near term, in light of the domestic political factors
at play in both nations.
SCHIEFFER