and Its Importance
At the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul the overtones of the cold war were clear. The United States and Soviet Union had boycotted successive Olympic Games in Moscow and Los Angeles in 1980 and 1984. As a result, American and Soviet spectators and participants at the Seoul Games dutifully cheered the athletes and teams from their respective geopolitical spheres of influence. However, a peculiar sight astonished some observers of the host Koreans that year: in events pitting the Soviet Union against Japan, Koreans cheered their Communist adversaries, not their cold-war partners. While this may have defied logic for many, it is not surprising for those even vaguely familiar with Japan-Korea relations. Ask a Korean how she feels about Japan, and the response will almost certainly be overwhelmingly negative. Pose the question to a Japanese, and the response will most likely be one of ambivalence.
Such responses epitomize the puzzle that the Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) relationship poses for East Asian security and international relations theory. Throughout the postwar era the security of Northeast Asia has figured prominently in U.S. geostrategic thinking. America's two key allies in this region are Japan and the ROK. The bilateral defense treaties concluded with these states in 1951 and 1953 have constituted the two legs of the U.S.-Japan-ROK security triangle and served as the foundation of the American-led defense network in East Asia. However, an important but precariously unpredictable third leg of this triangle has been the Japan-ROK bilateral relationship. Despite the existence of shared threats from the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea and generally convergent security interests, relations between Japan and Korea have been marred persistently by friction since normalization in June