April 19, 2017 4:20 am JST

South Korean candidate Moon softens his tone on Tokyo

Liberal leader, longtime 'Japan hawk,' speaks of cooperation

SOTARO SUZUKI, Nikkei staff writer

SEOUL -- Moon Jae-in, the presidential candidate of South Korea's leading opposition Democratic Party of Korea, dialed back his fiery rhetoric on Japan in a list of key campaign pledges released Monday, apparently seeking a more cooperative line.

Moon had told reporters Thursday that Seoul and Tokyo would rebuild their relationship based on Japan reflecting on its historical errors. But he took a softer tone in his new manifesto released by the National Election Commission, saying he would pursue a mature, cooperative relationship with Japan.

The liberal-leaning candidate also says he would generally abide by the two countries' 2015 agreement aimed at resolving the issue of wartime "comfort women," which he had previously said he would seek to renegotiate. The statement also leaves out Moon's previous mentions of responding firmly to Tokyo over the disputed islets called Takeshima by Japan and Dokdo by South Korea, as well as over Japanese cabinet members visiting Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni Shrine honoring Japan's war dead.

Moon's campaign pledges include new promises of economic and security cooperation with Japan on a "fourth industrial revolution" and new growth fields, as well as on resolving the North Korean nuclear threat.

Monday's declaration does not represent a fundamental shift in Moon's position, experts say, as the 10 vows are simply those the candidate wants to promote most. Moon is seen as a Japan hawk, but "it wouldn't be constructive to just list historical problems, so we included a forward-looking standpoint," said a Democratic Party source.

In the words of another political source, the statement "highlights the more pragmatic promises with an eye toward running the government after the election."

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