On January 30, 1995, in response to a question in a Diet committee,
Japanese Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi* said that Japan is partly
responsible for the division of the Korean peninsula after World War
II. The following day, January 31, Murayama retracted his remark,
saying "I spoke of Japan's responsibility for the Japanese colonial
rule of Korea in the past. I want to make it clear that Japan has no
responsibility for the division of Korea into North and South Korea."
Japan may not be responsible for the division of Korea, but like
China, it seems utterly comfortable with two Koreas and stirs itself
only when it looks as if there might be some progress toward
unification. The ostensible reason for Murayama's reversal is that
Japan does not want to accede to North Korea's demand for
compensation for the division of Korea. But the real issues behind
Japan's ambiguous stance are: the place of Korea in the future of
East Asian international relations, whether Japan will always have
the American nuclear umbrella and thirty-seven thousand American
troops in Korea to provide the first line of defense, what would
happen to the Japanese-American "alliance" if the Americans ever
again had to use force in Korea while the Japanese merely looked on.
And indeed there is the even more fundamental question of why
American troops are still there forty-five years after the outbreak
of the Korean War and five years after the end of the Cold War.