It is often stated that when politicians can foresee their defeat, they take all sorts of arbitrary decisions just to somehow secure a victory. Similar is the case with the South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is looking at an imminent election defeat at the upcoming 2022 elections and as a result, is taking such rash decisions which are sure to cause irreparable damage to the Japan-Korea relations.
Now, even as the USA under Joe Biden made a very half-hearted effort to bridge the differences for a while so that the allies can efficiently work together, Moon Jae-in seems unwilling to let the frictions with Japan subside. South Korea’s Naval forces and Coast Guards began a military drill on Tuesday near the disputed easternmost islets of Dokdo, a set of islands also claimed by Japan, military sources told Yonhap news agency. The drill, titled the East Sea Territory Protection Exercise, comes just days after scheduled negotiations between the two countries were halted over a map issue involving the disputed Dokdo islets.
The hold of South Korean President Moon Jae-in on power is weakening, and as his popularity rating dip, he seems to have decided to use anger against Japan due to the historical baggage as a rallying point to regain popularity before next year’s elections. This development also signals towards a trend that has become more and more apparent in the last few months. That is Moon Jae-in’s increased inclination towards Beijing, and decreasing influence of the USA under Joe Biden on South Korea.
Under Moon, in recent months, South Korea had renewed its proximity towards the People’s Republic of China. To be very blunt about it, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is sitting firmly in Xi Jinping’s lap with a slew of pro-Beijing decisions and optics over the past few months. It was already a factor in making the Moon highly unpopular. In addition to that, the current developments are sure to cost his centre-left Democratic Party heavily in the 2022 elections.
President Moon Jae-in’s approval ratings have plummeted to a historic low, owing to the insider land trade scandal, as well as ballooning home prices and growing inequality. His party also lost badly in critical mayoral elections in April. In such a scenario, the best lazy solution is to deflect people’s attention from real issues towards Japan and gain brownie points in the process.
South Korea’s military exercise that involves the Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, “is aimed at responding to threats to our territory, people, and properties,” the agency reported citing a Navy official. While Seoul customarily conducts two drills around the islets every year, usually in June and December to fend off foreign infiltrations in the region, the South Korean armed forces launched the exercise following heightened tensions with Japan, goes on to show the intent of the exercise. While Moon Jae-in is looking for short term gains, as a consequence of his actions he is causing irreparable damage to Japan-Korea relations.