Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called South Korea the ‘most important neighbour’ under an increasingly ‘severe security environment’ in Northeast Asia. Addressing the Parliament for his policy speech on January 20, Abe highlighted that diplomacy with neighbouring countries is extremely important under the current circumstances.
In another policy speech in October, the Japanese Prime Minister had called Seoul simply an ‘important’ neighbour and called for honouring the commitments between the two countries in accordance with international law. But the shift from ‘important’ to ‘most important’ is being considered as a policy shift by Abe to strike a reconciliatory note with the neighbour.
The bilateral relations between Tokyo and Seoul recently nosedived on the issue of compensation for the former Korean labourers during Japan’s colonial rule. In 2018, South Korea’s top court ordered Japanese firms to compensate wartime labourers but Japan has maintained that the matter was settled through a 1965 treaty.
“I sincerely hope South Korea honours its commitments between the two countries and build future-oriented bilateral relations,” said Abe.
Apart from diplomatic relations, Abe’s policy speech was heavily loaded around the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The 65-year-old Japanese leader recalled the 1964 Olympics when it was broadcasted live for the first time. He evoked that last Tokyo Olympics for people to remember the return of Japan to the world stage after its defeat in World War II and recovery from the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Abe also emphasised on the formation of a space defence unit against potential threats and working closely with American space forces recently launched by US President Donald Trump. Japan is facing threats from Russia and China as they are seeking ways to disable and destroy satellites.
“We will drastically bolster capability and system in order to secure superiority” in those areas, said Abe as Japan's ally, the United States, wants to continue its dominance in space.