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U.N. Command statement on Japan draws ire in South Korea

By Elizabeth Shim
U.N. Command statement on Japan draws ire in South Korea
Statements on Japan in a United Nations Command in a South Korea document are drawing strong reactions in Seoul. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

July 11 (UPI) -- A U.S. statement about the potential role Japan could play in the event of crisis on the Korean Peninsula is causing controversy in Seoul, where officials say the statement is being misinterpreted.

In an annual document published by the U.S.-led United Nations Command, the U.S. military stated Japan could intervene if a crisis occurred on the Korean Peninsula, South Korean television network SBS reported Thursday.

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The statement appeared in the Korean-language version of the USFK document, according to local reports.

According to the Korean-language statement, the multinational U.N. Command in Korea, led by the United States, would "continue support and cooperation with Japan in times of crisis."

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The issue of potential Japanese involvement is a sensitive topic in South Korea, where civic groups have condemned Japan's colonization of the peninsula, and most recently, anti-Tokyo sentiment is growing in the wake of a trade dispute initiated by Japan.

South Korea's defense ministry repudiated the notion of Japanese military involvement on the peninsula on Thursday.

Any changes in troop involvement, including the introduction of Japan's self-defense force into the U.N. Command, cannot occur without South Korea approval, Seoul said.

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"There have been no discussion of Japanese involvement. There have been no review," Noh Jae-chun, defense ministry spokesman, said Thursday.

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The ministry also said the key statement on Japanese involvement in the USFK document is different in the English and Korean-language versions.

The original English version stresses the role of the seven U.N. Command backbone bases in Japan, and the movement and support of military power through Japan, and not, as the Korean version suggests, support and cooperation with Japan.

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The document from the U.N. Command appears to be proposing a Northeast Asia version of NATO, Yonhap reported Thursday.

The United States and its allies South Korea and Japan could potentially launch a multinational military organization to check China, Russia and North Korea, according to the report.

The U.N. Command currently has 16 sending states, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand; Japan is not a sending state.

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