Cut-out photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, U.S. President Donald Trump, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, right, are displayed during a campaign to demand peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula, in Seoul on Thursday. Photo: AP/Ahn Young-joon
politics

Japan-S Korea rift may change regional economic, security structures

32 Comments
By Tomoyuki Tachikawa

Escalating tensions between Japan and South Korea, both key U.S. allies in East Asia, could change long-standing economic and security structures in the region across the board, possibly benefiting China and North Korea, according to foreign affairs experts.

As long as Tokyo and Seoul remain at odds over bilateral matters, weakened trilateral cooperation with Washington may allow Beijing to boost its influence in economic, technology and security fields in East Asia amid U.S.-China trade and currency spats, they say.

Frayed security relations among Japan, South Korea and the United States could also lead to failure to deter North Korea from developing new weapons, undermining multilateral efforts to contain the nuclear threat from Pyongyang.

Some pundits based in the United States have urged U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has adopted a hard-line stance against South Korea, to try to find a way to ease the Tokyo-Seoul strife for sake of regional peace and stability.

In recent months, Japan-South Korea ties have plunged to the lowest point since normalization in 1965 over Japanese imposition of export control measures in the wake of a string of South Korean court rulings last year ordering compensation for wartime labor.

On Thursday, many protesters rallied against Abe in Seoul on the occasion of the 74th Liberation Day, which marks the end of Japanese colonial rule.

Trump last week called on Tokyo and Seoul to improve their relations, saying intensifying tensions between the two Asian countries put the United States in a "bad position."

"South Korea and Japan are fighting all the time," Trump told reporters at the White House. "They're supposed to be allies."

In 2018, South Korea's top court ruled that Japanese companies must compensate people who claimed they were victims of forced labor during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Japan, however, has rejected the decisions as going against a 1965 bilateral agreement that settled the compensation issue "finally and completely" with a $500 million lump sum in financial aid. Abe has lambasted South Korea for "violating the international treaty."

On Aug. 2, Tokyo decided to revoke Seoul's preferential status as a trade partner for the purchase of goods that could be diverted for military use, citing security concerns. Seoul has argued that the action is a retaliation against the court rulings.

Since early July, Japan has also tightened controls on South Korea-bound exports of key materials used to manufacture semiconductors and display panels. The semiconductor industry is a key engine of South Korea's economy.

At a three-way meeting in Bangkok earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo encouraged his Japanese and South Korean counterparts to make efforts to resolve their bitter dispute, which has shown little signs of petering out, through dialogue.

Rorry Daniels, deputy project director for the Forum on Asia-Pacific Security at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy in New York, said if ties between Tokyo and Seoul worsen further, "there could be long-term strategic implications" in Asia.

The deterioration in relations with Tokyo is likely to dampen the possibility of Seoul joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, a Japan-led high-standard regional trade agreement, which could make South Korea more dependent on China's economy.

The TPP, revised after the U.S. withdrawal, comprises 11 Asia-Pacific nations such as Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico and Singapore. Although China and South Korea are not members of the trade pact, Seoul had shown interest in participating in it.

South Korea's greater reliance on Asia's biggest economy would "give Beijing more leverage over Seoul in any conflicts of interest and affect U.S. efforts to diversify supply chains away from China," Daniels said.

Other foreign affairs experts in the United States have expressed similar views, saying if the Japan-South Korea economic connection is fragile, China would become a leading provider of semiconductor and next-generation 5G network equipment.

If Japan reduces exports to South Korea, China could "benefit" as an alternative supplier to its neighbor, said Troy Stangarone, a senior director at the Korea Economic Institute in Washington. "This could create openings to strengthen China's semiconductor industry."

Stangarone also said the rift would let China dominate the development of 5G technology, which will enable telecommunication devices to wirelessly connect to almost all products and services at extremely high speeds, including those related to military affairs.

South Korea's electronics giant Samsung Electronics Co. is one of the leading 5G equipment providers in the world and Japan is a crucial parts supplier to the firm, Stangarone said.

"Ensuring smooth cooperation in technology is critical" to economic and security interests of Tokyo and Seoul, as Washington has voiced anxiety that Beijing's rise in the 5G field would jeopardize the national security of the United States and its allies, he added.

On the security front, Seoul has also threatened to terminate a military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo, a move that would undermine trilateral cooperation with Washington and decrease the U.S. presence in the region.

Daniels said the Japan-South Korea battle "introduces new irritants at a time when better trilateral coordination is needed to provide reassurances that the United States and its regional partners can balance China's growing power and can contain and deter North Korea's provocative behavior."

As for inter-Korean relations, South Korean President Moon Jae In has pledged to deepen ties with the North to challenge Japan.

If economic cooperation between the two Koreas is established, "We would be able to take a giant leap forward and catch up to Japan's dominance," Moon said earlier this month.

A Japanese government source said, "I am wondering if President Moon wants to form a united country with North Korea that has nuclear weapons by breaking off from Japan and the United States."

Young-Key Kim-Renaud, a professor emeritus at The George Washington University in Washington, said if cooperation among the United States, Japan and South Korea ceases to exist, it will only "give confidence to potential enemies" like the North.

Criticizing Trump for getting closer to Pyongyang, the specialist of Korean affairs said it is "regrettable" that Washington "seems to be more engaged with North Korea" than "trying to encourage and help (Tokyo and Seoul) to mend their tearing relationship."

"In the process, the U.S. influence in the region will be greatly diminished. Simply saying that the two countries are equally important allies and the problem should be managed by the two makes the United States look weak and irresponsible," Kim-Renaud added.

North Korea has carried out five rounds of weapons launches in just over two weeks since last month, but Trump has so far downplayed Pyongyang's firings of projectiles, saying they were "short-range missiles" that cannot reach the United States.

Stangarone, meanwhile, has blamed Abe for eroding ties between Japan and South Korea, saying, "One reason that this crisis is difficult to resolve is that Japan's objective is unclear."

"On one level Japan has said that this has nothing to do with the issue of forced labor, but at the same time used that as an example of why it cannot trust South Korea. This has muddied the Japanese government's message," he said.

"Once Japan is clear about its objectives, it will help to facilitate discussions," Stangarone said.

© KYODO

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

32 Comments
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That's a nice photo! Like 3 peas in a pod!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I think Abe's objectives are quite clear, when you see through the fog of rhetoric. He wants Moon to join with Kim for a united Korea, share nuclear weapons and join with China to threaten Japan. Then, Trump will have to put up or shut up.

I'm wondering how Xi is looking ahead. China doesn't look to tomorrow, or next week, or next month or year when it considers strategic alternatives. It looks a lot further ahead than the US (and frankly, its self-centered president).

-6 ( +6 / -12 )

South Korea and Japan are fighting all the time," Trump told reporters at the White House. "They're supposed to be allies."

Well, now that Trump has said this, the "alliance" is probably shot to hell!

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Of course, northeast Asians should work together to improve prosperity of northeast Asians, nothing is wrong and everything is right.

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

SK can't be a reliable ally of Japan at least with the Moon regime. Japan can't compromise about it. Because the national security system of SK is quite weak. And SK's tentative enemy is Japan actually.

10 ( +15 / -5 )

Tensions high? Japanese people are very quiet and patient. We do not burn flags of South Korea and effigies of Moon. Stop criticizing Abe the leader of other country. It is not your business. Behave gentlemanly if you want to have a good relations with Japan. Observe the treaty exchanged before by the two countries and remove embarrassing statues. It is an abashment to yourself.

11 ( +18 / -7 )

No matter how many statements the Emperor, Expresses, deep remorse over Japan's wartime actions, to realise that the present and possibility future Governments of South Korea will never reconcile there loathing of Japan its government and its people..

9 ( +13 / -4 )

"Once Japan is clear about its objectives, it will help to facilitate discussions," Stangarone said.

Don't hold your breath.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

Yup. And rational minds know who fired the first shot. The ldp regime bit off more than it could chew.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

No matter how many statements the Emperor, Expresses, deep remorse over Japan's wartime actions, to realise that the present and possibility future Governments of South Korea will never reconcile there loathing of Japan its government and its people..

If people actually bothered to step outside the echo chamber of Kyodo / State Broadcaster / Sankei Shimbun they'd find that many Koreans are smart enough to reject blanket hatred of Japan. It's about Abe, not the Japanese people:

"Koreans, however, have expressed their opposition to any state-orchestrated anti-Japan movement, saying the boycott should remain in the private sector. They have denounced politicians and authorities for exploiting the issue to advance their agendas. Many also tried to focus their campaign on criticizing the Abe administration, not citizens of the country."

"Despite the intensifying row between the neighbors, people The Korea Herald spoke to -- some who joined the boycott of Japanese products and others who did not -- made it clear that they did not hate Japanese people for the Abe administration’s actions.

“I hope that Koreans and Japanese people don’t get hurt by this. It is not a fight between us. It is a fight against the Japanese government,” said Kim Jun-gyu, a 26-year-old university student."

http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20190812000777

7 ( +14 / -7 )

It is a fight against the Japanese government,

Too bad this very obvious fact that really doesn't require repeating is lost on the rara crowd.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Stangarone, meanwhile, has blamed Abe for eroding ties between Japan and South Korea, saying, "One reason that this crisis is difficult to resolve is that Japan's objective is unclear."

Stangarone seems to have been wined and dined by Moon.

The greater majority of JT posters who claim to know when they know nada think otherwise.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Some pundits based in the United States have urged U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has adopted a hard-line stance against South Korea, to try to find a way to ease the Tokyo-Seoul strife for sake of regional peace and stability.

Japan has adopted a hard line stance only after South Korea unilaterally ripped up the "irreversible" landmark 2015 CW Agreement, treated Japan as an "enemy" by locking fire radar on a JMSDF recon plane, allowed a SK Court to rule against Japanese corporations in violation of the 1965 Treaty, refused to honor the arbitration clause in the same treaty. SK started this dispute, has admitted to 156 instances of security lapses. and has whined to the WTO, US and UN to no avail. Yet the Moon administration continues to use anti-Japan sentiment as a political tool., even at tje expense of harming the US-JPN-SK security alliance. These idiot pundits need to be urging Moon and Moon alone. That's really all it takes.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

It seems to me Trump is in a situation that he has to choose what country he should support. NK or Japan? If he is smart enough, he will go Japan's side. Now if he keeps trying good talks with Kim, such move will not have great success.

We all know that Kim has no intention to change his way of thinking, so it is obvious such attempt to improve relations with North is a waste of time for sure.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

South Korea has managed to allianate its only neighboring friendly country, Japan. Apparently Mr. Moon thinks he can take on the PRK without any friends. He must be pretty stupid. Time for the US to get the heck out of South Korea. They don't need to be the sole guarantor any longer.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Talking about SK, Mon is in a situation that he has to choose between keeping his pride on or accepting he was wrong. Based on last thread SK has not gotten support neither from the US, neither from WTO. If we considered such facts, thing in the peninsula can be worsen. Boycott is going on in many part of SK, but until when Mon will be able to deceive those people? I say that because comments from facebook and even youtube there are Koreans who already are questioning Mon administration and start to doubt the reasons behind this "pro SK thing". The number are few, but it is starting to grow the number among them. There are even a discussion filled with insults from SK users toward SK citizens who don't agree and neither support Mon administration.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Time for the US to get the heck out of South Korea. They don't need to be the sole guarantor any longer.

Lolololololololololoololololololol

Sure Jan!!!

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Personally I don't think Mon has the intention to give up his pride. If he really wanted good relation with Japan, he would cause trouble for a thing that was not harming Korea since Japan didn't stop exports to SK. From my point of view, I think his intention is to join to NK and PRC. Now if someone ask if such thing will be good for Korean people, I would tell that just the time will tell if such move was a good thing or not. Personally, I don't think it will good to Korean citizens.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

No. the US troops will stay. China vs Japan waged so many wars to dominate the peninsula for their strategical interest in the history I don't know about China but Japan certainly isn't interested in that anymore now that Uncle Sam's doing the job.

Ignore the koreans barking, they are irrelevant in the big boys game.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Seth MToday  10:20 am JST

No. the US troops will stay.

Only as long as we feel secure about their safety. If Moon is unwilling to swallow his pride and undo the mess he has created, it is "possible" that he may turn SK towards the Chinese sphere of influence. and if that happens Trump will be proclaiming how he "saved us money" by pulling US troops out of SK. On the other hand, the South Korean people may not agree and throw Moon's butt out on the street.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Anyone watched the S. Korea liberation speech?

They mentioned Japan 50 times.

Suprise! Japan is the enemy and competitor to worry about and surpass.

North they want to reunite and be brothers by 2045.

No mention of China, not even once!

Full focus and attention was towards those Evil Japanese.

Oh yeah... You have to get along with them and ignore all of that. It's ok for Koreans to hate your very existence! boycott Japanese products on mass! go back on aggrements signed, illegally occupy Japanese territory, try to change the name of Japan Sea.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Japan should not budge until n unless SK agrees to settle in it ICJ as they say judiciary n govt is different n SK unless it is related to Japan. Japan should listen to China on dealing with SK “use training stick not cookies”

6 ( +7 / -1 )

@ AlexBecu, good analysis. I didnt waste my time watching the so called "liberation" speech. Its just anti-Japan propaganda. Was anything said about boycotting 2020 Olympic again?

7 ( +8 / -1 )

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, U.S. President Donald Trump, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, right

Trump: You two pixies knock it off!

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, U.S. President Donald Trump, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, right

Trump: You two pixies knock it off!

Kim: I just murdered my half-brother and uncle...

Trump: I just smeared four Congresswomen of color and said one of my cities was "infested"...

Moon: Why am I walking with these two idiots?...

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Bickering like this is going to put a hard line on the US administration to pull out major support to Japan and Korea. Possibly withdrawing the majority of US troops out.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

For the sake of clarification of the current Japan-ROK relations issue, there's one question I want to ask. 

Under the 1965 Japan-ROK Basic Relations Treaty, Japan had to pay a total $500 million (today's rate: $4025 million) to ROK, part of which had to be used by the Korean government for compensaton for the victims of the colonial era. But the Korean government  used most of the aid money for the improvement of industrial infrastructure, thus triggering the booming economic development of South Korea as we see today.

 If I am wrong, please correct me.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@Alfie NoakesToday  08:23 am JST

"Koreans, however, have expressed their opposition to any state-orchestrated anti-Japan movement, saying the boycott should remain in the private sector. They have denounced politicians and authorities for exploiting the issue to advance their agendas. Many also tried to focus their campaign on criticizing the Abe administration, not citizens of the country."

Many posters on this site don't recognize Korea for what it is because they don't understand what's actually going on beyond reading sensational news headlines. The way Koreans are carrying out their boycott - aside from whether you agree with such a movement - shows it is a mature, democratic and citizen-led society where they are able to think and act for themselves critically without peer pressure for conformity. Many people here incorrectly assume (and blame) that the SK government is somehow backing up any of these activities, but it's not true. SK citizens wouldn't allow that as this incident above clearly demonstrates.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

This bcoz moon just backed off out of the mess he created n ordered business firm n people to solve the problems themselves

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Cut-out photos? What is this, Noddy goes Photoshopping??l

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tensions are only high on SK who is throwing tantrum. Ignoring the 1965 agreement to order Japanese companies to pay for Sky's shortcomings (massive payments to support US military).

Japan is not boycotting SK goods, protesting, or teaching hatred in schools. Why a 21-year-old man is angry with Japan with this intensity? Because of the government propagation. Sad how SK government keep its citizens in the suffering of hatred? Who is happier, Korean or Japanese?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There's an objective, convincing commentary by Byun Jung-il, editor of Korean Report,  that answers well the question I posed: "Why wasn't Japan's compensation used for comfort women issue?" on iRONNA (https://ironna.jp/article/2282).

I recommend all posters with a command of written Japanese to read it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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