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Japanese PM's war shrine visit clouds military ties with Seoul

2013/12/27 14:39

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Dec. 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's defense ministry on Friday bristled at the Japanese prime minister's controversial visit to a war shrine, saying Tokyo's "untrustworthy" behavior leaves no room for further military ties between the two Asian neighbors.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday made an inflammatory visit to the Yashukuni war shrine, prompting Seoul to denounce it as a "lamentable" and "anachronistic act" that will result in diplomatic repercussions.

In line with the strong tone set by the South Korean government, the defense ministry said Abe's shrine visit will negatively affect the two nations' military ties.

"We'd like to ask Japan whether (the two countries) can build military relations through the untrustworthy behavior," Army Col. Wi Yong-seop, deputy ministry spokesman, said in a briefing.

The response also came as the Seoul government is under fire for its decision to borrow 10,000 rounds of ammunition from Japan for its peacekeepers in South Sudan earlier this week in preparation for a contingency plan in the strife-stricken African nation.

The main point of criticism is that the move contributes to Japan's efforts to seek its right to collective self-defense, which calls for allowing the country to fight alongside its allies. This is something that has been considered beyond the scope of its war-renouncing constitution.

Seoul officials have defended the decision, saying the provision was under the authority of U.N. mission in South Sudan, not through a deal between the two nations' forces.

Amid lingering criticism, the ministry said it will soon return the ammunition when the South Korean troops receive additional supplies via carriers, which are currently on their way to their base camp.

"We will return (Japanese) ammunition to U.N. as soon as additional military supplies arrive," Wi said.

Seoul and Tokyo last year came close to signing a military pact on boosting exchanges of military intelligence on North Korea, but the South Korean government dropped the plan due to the wave of opposition from the public. Many South Koreans still resent Japan for its brutal rule over the Korean Peninsula from 1910-1945.