50 Years: Japan and S. Korea: History Row Overshadows Trilateral Security Alliance

The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), June 25, 2015 | Go to article overview

50 Years: Japan and S. Korea: History Row Overshadows Trilateral Security Alliance


This is the second installment of a series that will examine the state of relations between Japan and South Korea.

The security environment in East Asia has continued to become strained over the years as China forcibly tries to alter the status quo in the East China Sea and other areas, while North Korea trudges on with its nuclear and long-range missile programs. As tensions rise, an ongoing confrontation between Japan and South Korea is overshadowing the region's security cooperation efforts.

A day after ceremonies were held to mark the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea, a leading South Korean newspaper carried an editorial in its Japanese edition on Tuesday headlined, "A sincere apology from Abe will be the first step for progress in South Korea-Japan relations."

The paper noted that the attendance of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye at their respective ceremonies was "the first step for the normalization of relations," but underscored deep-rooted distrust with Japan.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se in Seoul on May 18. Kerry told Yun that North Korea would become difficult to handle if Japan and South Korea continue to clash over historical perceptions.

Yun responded that his country is taking a "two-track approach" by handling historical and security issues separately. In other words, South Korea views historical perception and security cooperation as two entirely different matters.

Even then, security cooperation is anything but easy -- the South Korean government stance is easily swayed by public opinion, which has remained cautious toward closer ties with Japan.

The biggest problem is the pending Japan-South Korea General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). Tokyo and Seoul agreed to sign the pact in June 2012 to address North Korea's repeated threats of military action toward its neighboring countries.

An hour before the agreement was to be signed, the South Korean government proposed that the conclusion be delayed after facing a backlash from opposition parties. …

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