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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 11)

All Headlines 09:34 November 11, 2017

Shrimp dispute

Is Japan playing to spoil Trump's palate?

Japan has protested about Korea serving "Dokdo shrimp" at a state dinner for U.S. President Donald Trump.

The shrimp, one of three kinds caught off Korea's easternmost islets to which Japan has repeatedly made claim _ was used in one of the dishes at the banquet.

Japanese media outlets made a big fuss over a brief reference to the shrimp in a Blue House press release.

The Japanese government followed the media's lead, with Foreign Minister Taro Kono lodging a protest with Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.

The way the Japanese media and government are handling the case looks silly, but could be seen as conspiratorial. After all, if Tokyo did not complain, there would have been no commotion, and no harm done to the trilateral coalition of Korea, the U.S. and Japan in dealing with North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

That does not necessarily mean the Korean government has no role in the mess.

True, as the foreign ministry said, it was our decision what should be on the menu.

If Dokdo shrimps were used intentionally to accent our sovereignty over the islets, it would be juvenile, to say the least. There was a report that a presidential aide, who was hired for his media savvy, led the menu-selecting process, so the possibility of a jibe at Japan cannot be ruled out.

Dokdo is Korea's territory and under its control, so there is no reason for Korea to reinforce its claim in such a sneaky way. It smacks of the sly Japanese style, if it was indeed planned.

If it were an innocent act with no political plot, it was a case of carelessness.

Still, Japan's handling of the case leaves a bitter taste.

How are Trump and White House staff feeling, if they feel that his palate may have been used for political purposes?

This raises the possibility that Tokyo is taking things out of proportion to drive a wedge into the Seoul-Washington alliance, strengthened by the successful Trump visit. Japan wants to keep the U.S. closer to its side not just to boost its hand against its traditional rival, China, but also keep its perpetual naysayer, Korea, at bay.

In the same context, Japan protested about the meeting between Trump and a former comfort woman _ one of an aged and dying group of sex slaves forced to serve Japanese soldiers during the colonial occupation that overlapped America's involvement in World War II triggered by Japan's 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Tokyo cited the 2015 agreement to claim that Seoul was wrong to arrange such a meeting, but it is an open question whether the agreement has any clause to prevent such a meeting. Rather, it was a cowardly act of hiding behind an incomplete pact to deny the case of an attack on women's rights of colossal scale.

The Moon government should take extra care in dealing with a Japan under the ultranationalist Shinzo Abe, whose government appears preoccupied in seeking out any sign of weakness, whether in friends or foes, of which to take advantage.

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