Abe offers sympathy, help to S Korea over ferry disaster

TOKYO —

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered “heartfelt sympathy” on Thursday to those hit by South Korea’s ferry disaster and his government offered help with the search, a rare moment of detente between the feuding neighbors.

Divers were looking for nearly 300 people still missing a day after the vessel capsized off the southwestern coast of South Korea, with hopes of finding any survivors fading. Nine people have been confirmed dead.

Speaking at a forum in Tokyo, Abe, whose sometimes-abrasive nationalism has raised tensions between the two countries, said his thoughts were with those caught up in the tragedy.

“I extend my heartfelt sympathy toward people who were hit by the accident and their families,” he said.

Separately, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters “we are offering whatever is necessary to help” Seoul, including the possibility of sending coast guard personnel and vessels.

Relations between Seoul and Tokyo are at a low, beset by disputes over Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula—particularly the issue of the thousands of women forced into sexual slavery, the so-called “comfort women”.

Abe and South Korea’s President Park Geun-Hye have only met formally once even though both have been in power for more than a year. The meeting only came about after U.S. President Barack Obama cajoled them into a three-way summit.

On Wednesday a senior Japanese diplomat visited Seoul for talks on the comfort women problem, with Japanese media reporting Tokyo was preparing a package of measures it hoped would salve the row once and for all.

Referencing the delicate state of ties with Seoul, Abe said Thursday: “I (hope) to build a forward-looking relationship with President Park Geun-Hye.”

(c) 2014 AFP

  • 17

    ReformedBasher

    Sincerely hoping these leaders say enough is enough and start working together.

  • 18

    YuriOtani

    All of these children that are missing and probably dead. I pray that some may still be alive in the wreckage. God bring comfort to their families and the children that escaped.

  • -16

    ohayo206

    How about sending some help?

  • 9

    marcelito

    Tragedies like this should always.be above petty politics regardless of which countries are involved ...basic humanity and common decency.

    Agree with Yuri and praying /hoping for the best.

  • -14

    ohayo206

    lol I get a thumbs down for suggesting sending help. hilarious. human decency is not just in words but also deeds.

  • 3

    boweevil

    Well, what else is he going to do realistically as a politician? His sympathy is worth neither praise or condemnation...It is normal protocol and should be expected. Its not hard to express sympathy and certainly isnt a praiseworthy act in itself.

  • 16

    hokkaidoguy

    ohayo206:

    How about sending some help?

    This is a big tragedy in terms of loss of life, but a very small one in terms of size. It's a ferry, and not a particularly large one at that. The Korean coast guard has more than enough manpower and support vessels to handle this.

    In other words, offering to send help would be unnecessary and probably taken as offensive.

  • 6

    Ah_so

    In other words, offering to send help would be unnecessary and probably taken as offensive.

    Exactly right.

  • -13

    Thomas Anderson

    In other words, offering to send help would be unnecessary and probably taken as offensive.

    Only if you have too much pride invested in it.

  • -13

    ohayo206

    Sending help is unnecessary and offensive. Did they bother to even ask? That sounds more than a little presumptive.

  • 0

    Japanoob

    human decency is not just in words

    Precisely. And how you (ohayo) convey the message you're trying to communicate is also important..

  • -10

    Andreas Zachcial

    The US Navy is sending a ship. Japan could do a bit more. It's a neighbor country for god sake.

  • -11

    JohnY921

    Japanese forgot that Koreans sent help for tsunami victims. Angry Japanese need to chill out.

  • -9

    Thomas Anderson

    Well, it looks like Japan DID offer help, anyway.

    http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20140417-00000039-mai-int

    And the netouyos are going crazy.

  • 5

    kickboard

    tomas, I read the comments and they were mostly along the lines of "that's a good response from Japan, but I wonder if they will accept our help." Too busy attacking the Japanese right wing and no time for comments of sympathy?

  • -11

    Thomas Anderson

    Umm, no. They are either predictable right-wing gloating, or not wanting to offer any help at all.

    These are the top comments:

    これが大人の国の対応

    "This is the response of an adult country"

    中国に頼って下さい。良い仲なので。

    "Please rely on China. Since they're good friends."

    ただし金は一銭も出すな。

    "But do not pay a cent."

    韓国にプライドがあるのならば 丁重にお断りするでしょう。

    "If Korea has any pride, then they will politely decline."

    日本は大人対応だが、それはやめてくれ! 税金だべ!

    "Japan's response is mature, but please don't do that! It's tax-payers money!"

    Yes, so much for "Those Koreans don't need help! It will only offend them!"

  • 3

    Raven Bo

    Sending help is unnecessary and offensive. Did they bother to even ask? That sounds more than a little presumptive. You are clueless. Korean/Chinese has been taught distorted history. As a consequence they are haters. So if Japan offer help, they would take it as "(&)*, you think we can't handle the situation". Recent case in point, S korea ask for 10,000 bullet in UN africa operation. Japan send 10,000 bullet though UN. Later lots complaints from S koreans about offer was in public, and it was unneccessary and japan sent it for.... No words of thanks lol.

  • 11

    CH3CHO

    Why do not we keep the record straight, rather than indulge ourselves in speculation?

    Japanese government offered help to South Korean government. South Korean government did not reply to the offer.

  • 3

    itsonlyrocknroll

    Abe san is not alone amongst leaders of government to express sympathy for S Korean ferry victims. I suppose it is breathtakingly naive of me, to be irritated to read references to 'comfort women' and 'sex slaves'.

    That's Abe san expressing “heartfelt sympathy” for S Korean ferry victims' and families. Wrong press conference for 'comfort women' and 'sex slaves'.

  • 0

    jbirdy

    Feuding neighbors?

  • -1

    overchan

    This crisis will develop slowly. If the ship doesnt sink completely. Divers will have to take bodies one by one. And thats pretty sad. Its dirty work. Sadly

    287 bodies is alot. Not a week job.

  • 3

    JoeBigs

    ohayo206Apr. 17, 2014 - 01:51PM JST How about sending some help?

    Huh?

    Do you want Japan to send it's navy to help and save the folks that died? That would go over like a lead balloon trying to make it around the world.

    This tragedy is one that doesn't need help, it needs sympathy for those that lost family members and Prime Minister has done just that.

  • 0

    overchan

    Many diving equipment is needed. The only ones that can help are the people from diving clubs. Butt who knows. Time is running short forbhopes

  • 5

    EthanWilber

    My whole heart goes to the victims and their families in this tragedy. The thing saddened me the most is that many of victims are just kids, a single turn of catastrophic event robbed their unfulfilled dreams. That is just so awful!

    Abe did a right thing by putting aside politics and focus on humanity.

  • -5

    Sue Jones

    Well seeing that the ferry was built in Japan fairly recently, Japan can help by investigating any structural problems with the ferry.

  • 5

    tinawatanabe

    the ferry was built in Japan fairly recently

    The ferry was built in 1994. And Korea has made changes. It would be difficult to put the blame on Japan.

  • -2

    shanabelle

    This ferry was previously one of the A-line fleet that is based in Amami Oshima. Strangely enough one of their similar type ferries over-turned a few years back..no-one died but the accident was blamed on poor loading and waves hitting it side on. Maybe a design issue?

  • 6

    OssanAmerica

    So has South Korea either thanked Japan for it's heartfelt sympathy or offer of assistance? Or have they declined everything as they feel it's not "sincere"? I bet they will act like a 6th grader and just ignore it all.

  • 1

    Cianne

    ohayo206APR. 17, 2014 - 01:51PM JST How about sending some help?

    They refused the help offered by the Japanese government.... too bad since there many young kids out there needs help to survive but it's been 3 days since the accident and their chances to live are now very slim.

  • 3

    JoeBigs

    Sue JonesApr. 17, 2014 - 09:33PM JST Well seeing that the ferry was built in Japan fairly recently, Japan can help by investigating any structural problems with the ferry.

    Let me see if I get this right, you are blaming Japan because the Captain of this boat made a mistake and sunk his ship?

    Let me help you out a bit, just because the ship was built in Japan 20 years ago doesn't make it Japan's fault because the Captain and his charts were wrong. The ship passed all South Korean safety inspections and was certified to do the job it was designed to do. The blame for this tragic accident falls squarely on those responsible for not doing their job.

    If someone is driving with his eyes closed and kills some people the blame doesn't fall on the automaker, the blame falls squarely on the driver.

    The Captain and his crew ran as quickly as they could to the nearest exit after 30 minutes and left those kids to their own fate.

    Please, try harder and stop trying to blame the wrong folks for this tragedy.

    OssanAmericaApr. 18, 2014 - 12:38AM JST So has South Korea either thanked Japan for it's heartfelt sympathy or offer of assistance? Or have they declined everything as they feel it's not "sincere"? I bet they will act like a 6th grader and just ignore it all.

    As always OssanAmerica, you bring logic and truth.

    President Park and her administration is being blamed for the lackluster response they showed at the beginning. Worse of all for her regime the parents are biting down on her neck for the little answers her people are giving.

  • 0

    Sidekick

    Japan can help by investicating any structural problems with the ferry.

    Can you realize a reaction of korean side if Japanese would find that the "structural problem" was caused by changes in design which had been made by koreans ?

  • 1

    genjuro

    Why do not we keep the record straight, rather than indulge ourselves in speculation?

    Japanese government offered help to South Korean government. South Korean government did not reply to the offer.

    Spot on. A lending hand is useful only if one chooses to accept it.

    My heart goes out to the victims and their families. I hope they can find more survivors, even if the prospects look dim.

  • -7

    Thomas Anderson

    But I thought the help was unnecessary, and Korea would take it as offense? A change of heart for the right wingers?

  • -1

    hokkaidoguy

    But I thought the help was unnecessary, and Korea would take it as offense? A change of heart for the right wingers?

    That was my comment. Why not address it to me?

    At the time, the offer wasn't being reported on - and I'm a little surprised that an offer was even made. South Korea has plenty of ships and smaller fishing boats available, not to mention a capable coast guard and navy. Offering to assist is like offering to send assistance if an office building was on fire - it implies that the local fire crews aren't up to the job.

    But that's just me. Abe apparently felt it would be polite to offer. I probably wouldn't have.

  • 1

    YuriOtani

    I can only think about the missing adults and children. The thought that the children might be dead makes me sick. I continue to pray that they may still be rescued.

  • 0

    CoconutE3

    First airplane, next ferry, what's next .....a train? Condolences to victims and their families.

  • 0

    lynnk

    **japanese has well trained divers and ship who specialized in resque from sinkin ship. Prob the best and most experienced in a world

    It must have made so much difference on the no. Of survivers if they accepted as soon as they got offer. Cuz they have been all waiting for go sign from korea still now

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