During the Reagan Years
IN THE 1980s Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency with a mandate to reestablish American global strength and stature. In Asia this "peace through strength" message translated into a reaffirmation of defense commitments to U.S. allies. Reagan's invitation to ROK President Chun Doo-hwan as one of his first official state guests in 1981 and his explicit assurances that U.S. combat forces would remain indefinitely in Korea were strong pronouncements of this policy. The message also rang clearly in Japan, where the administration's initiatives for a deepening strategic relationship with Japan, coupled with the development of a personal rapport between Reagan and Premier Nakasone Yasuhiro, engendered a new, intimate partnership that the Japanese had long desired. These actions reestablished U.S. credibility in the region and effectively supplanted fears of U.S. abandonment prevalent in Seoul and Tokyo during the Jimmy Carter years.
Concurrent with these developments Japan-ROK bilateral relations experienced a number of watershed events. In 1983 the two countries held summit talks for the first time in the history of normalized relations; in 1984 Emperor Hirohito offered a historic public apology for Japan's past aggression against Korea; and economic interdependence during the period was highlighted by the conclusion of an unprecedented $4-billion-loan agreement. These developments led many to herald the start of a new era of cooperation in bilateral relations.
The confluence of these two trends appears to pose an anomaly for the argument advanced by the quasi-alliance model, according to which decreased fears of U.S. abandonment in the 1980s should have given rise to contentious, not cooperative behavior between Japan and the ROK. This chapter addresses the 1980s in Japan-ROK relations in the