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For several months, Japan and South Korea, America’s main allies in East Asia, have been going at each other. Japan stripped South Korea of trading privileges; then South Korea removed Japan from a list of favored trade partners. In late August, Seoul announced that it would cancel an agreement with Tokyo over the sharing of sensitive military intelligence, including about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. The tiff, some observers argue, marks a low in relations since the two countries normalized ties in 1965 after decades of friction over conflicting interpretations of Japan’s record during its occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945 — forced labor, territorial claims, sexual slavery.…  Seguir leyendo »

Where the Cold War Never Ended

In a rational world, South Korea and Japan ought to be the best of friends. Their cultures and languages are closely linked. Their economies are deeply entangled. And as the only liberal democracies in East Asia (along with Taiwan), they have to contend with the threat of North Korean belligerence and Chinese domination.

But the world is not so rational, and so the two American allies have recently become engaged in a flaming economic row, ostensibly sparked by historical wrongs. Late last year, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled that Japanese companies should compensate Koreans who were forced to work in Japanese factories and mines during World War II.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Friday, Japan announced that it was revoking South Korea’s trusted status, which means that South Korean firms will have a far harder time importing goods with potential military uses. In particular, this is likely to affect the export of key chemicals to South Korea. This, in turn, has huge potential consequences for South Korea’s electronics industry, which relies on these chemicals to produce semiconductors and flat-panel screens. As the Nikkei Asian Review reports, Japan’s actions are leading to a widespread boycott of Japanese goods in South Korea. South Korea has also revoked Japan’s trusted status in retaliation.

This is just one especially clear example of a broader phenomenon that we describe in our new article for International Security, Weaponized Interdependence: How Global Economic Networks Shape State Coercion.…  Seguir leyendo »

On July 1, Japan placed export restrictions on three chemicals critical to South Korea’s tech industry. Exporters must apply for a license each time they make a shipment, which can take up to 90 days. The Japanese government is also considering removing South Korea from its “white list” of trustworthy countries that receive preferential trade treatment.

The issue, the Japanese government claims, is that South Korea failed to control hydrogen fluoride — which can be used in weapons development — from being shipped to North Korea. South Korea has denied the accusation.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in called this a “grave challenge,” and promised to wean South Korea’s high-tech sector off its dependence on Japanese supplies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tensions are flaring up again between South Korea and Japan. Earlier this month, Japan restricted exports of three chemicals vital to South Korea’s electronics industry, citing national security concerns. Seoul called the move “economic retaliation” and filed a complaint with the WTO. Tokyo has also threatened to remove South Korea from its “white list” of trustworthy countries for trade in sensitive materials by July 24.

To outside observers, the trade spat may seem sudden. However, the relationship has been deteriorating since last fall, when long-existing disagreements over Japan’s history with the Korean Peninsula were reignited.

South Korean court rulings precipitated the current spat.…  Seguir leyendo »

What’s the significance of the 7th China-Japan-South Korea Trilateral Summit?

The main purpose of the meeting was simply to showcase good vibes among the three leaders. Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul are trying to overcome contemporary disputes and historical grievances so that they can promote regional trade and investment and coordinate their policies, particularly on North Korea. There were three broad priorities: improve diplomatic relations, manage the Korean peninsula crisis and make progress on cooperation mechanisms, as the joint statement emphasizes.

China and Japan also held bilateral meetings in which they signed ten agreements, including a long-delayed one to set up a maritime and aerial communication mechanism that may help manage military encounters, particularly in the East China Sea.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the Unification Church commemorate the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, in Seoul in 2012. Credit Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press

On Friday morning, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan was setting off to attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics, as well as a side meeting with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, he declared that cooperation among their two countries and the United States was “unshakable” in the face of threats from North Korea.

Yet just last week some commentators were forecasting that the encounter could only be “tense,” citing, as ever, residual tensions stemming from Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula in 1910-45. As is routinely reported, Japan’s wartime treatment of so-called comfort women — women enlisted to sexually service Japanese troops — appears to endanger its ties with South Korea because, some say, it has not adequately apologized for its record.…  Seguir leyendo »

The presidency of Donald Trump has triggered an unprecedented collapse of Brand America and sets the bar exceedingly low for global leaders. Yet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump’s closest if not only friend among them, deserves special scrutiny for his recent refusal to apologize to South Korea over the horrors endured by tens of thousands of women treated as sex slaves by the Japanese military during the 1930s and 1940s.

There is a “been there, done that” aspect of South Korean-Japanese relations. These frenemies have never reached a mutually acceptable understanding of their shared past. Today true reconciliation has become even more elusive due to democratization in South Korea.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Dec. 27, a woman puts a scarf on a statue of a comfort woman sitting in an installation of empty chairs symbolizing the victims in Seoul. (AP)

On Tuesday, the South Korean government wrapped up a months-long process of reviewing a landmark 2015 agreement with Japan over the “comfort women” issue. In the agreement, Japan apologized for the sexual enslavement of Korean women in military brothels before and during World War II. It also offered for the first time government money to support surviving victims through a foundation run by the Korean government. Both sides pledged to stop criticizing each other on the comfort women issue. They pronounced the deal a “final and irreversible resolution” to the issue.

However, the deal quickly faced backlash in South Korea and was further delegitimized when President Park Geun-hye was impeached last year.…  Seguir leyendo »

Corea del Sur avanza en sus planes que lo convertirán en el anfitrión de un sistema avanzado de defensa antimisiles – conocido como “Terminal High Altitude Area Defense”, o THAAD – que implementará en colaboración con el ejército de Estados Unidos. La decisión del presidente surcoreano Park Geun-hye ha suscitado controversia; y, China y Rusia se oponen a la misma, y a su vez algunos comentaristas predicen el comienzo de una “Nueva Guerra Fría”.

Sin embargo, China y Rusia deberían agradecer la llegada del THAAD, porque alivia la necesidad que tiene Corea del Sur o Japón de buscar otras opciones de defensa, que podrían incluir el desarrollo de armas nucleares.…  Seguir leyendo »

With the South Korean elections now concluded, it is time for the South Korean government to move forward on the tricky, unpopular matter on the agenda: its relationship with Japan. While the U.S.-Japan and U.S.-South Korea alliances are thriving, U.S. security strategy in the region relies on effective coordination between all three countries, which continues to be hampered by tensions between Japan and South Korea. Though these two countries share so many traits and there is so much at stake, relations continue to be embroiled in the past. It is time for Japan and South Korea to begin thinking creatively about resolving these issues, starting with the stalled “comfort women” agreement.…  Seguir leyendo »

After many failed attempts, the success of North Korea's recent rocket test should be a clarifying moment for the United States and its allies in Asia. When combined with North Korea's recent underground nuclear weapons test, last month's missile launch underscores how the precarious state of affairs in Northeast Asia threatens American national security.

The reality is that while the Cold War may have ended in Europe 25 years ago, it persists in Asia today. In addition to the North Korean threat, America and its regional allies must also confront escalating territorial disputes and challenges to regional stability in the South China Sea.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters rallied in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul after the comfort women agreement was announced in December. Credit Yang Ji-Woong/European Pressphoto Agency

On Dec. 28, the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan announced the “final, irreversible” resolution of the controversy over the sexual enslavement of Korean women by the Japanese military from the early 1930s until the end of World War II. They said neither government will raise the issue ever again.

While foreign media organizations praised the deal and a minority of South Koreans accepted it, there was a strong backlash here across the political spectrum. The main opposition Minjoo Party condemned “President Park Geun-hye’s complacent historical consciousness” for calling on the public to accept the agreement. One survivor, speaking to the left-leaning outlet OhmyNews, was blunt, “We need to replace the president — that pro-Japanese collaborator’s daughter, Park Geun-hye.”…  Seguir leyendo »

After 70 years, the Japanese and South Korean governments finally released a joint statement outlining a bilateral agreement to settle the issue of comfort women, a euphemism for girls and women forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers from the 1930s until the end of World War WII.

The agreement states the Japanese government will offer a one-time final apology and to pay 1 billion yen ($8.3m) to provide care for victims through a foundation.

While there are those who argue that this is a breakthrough for the comfort women movement, the longest running activist movement on sex slavery in modern history, this agreement only deals with one country -- the reconciliation between Japan and South Korea.…  Seguir leyendo »

En el transcurso del pasado año, las relaciones entre las tres economías más exitosas del este de Asia -Japón, Corea del Sur y China- han estado mejorando, lenta pero sostenidamente. Es algo notable, ya que sus vínculos entre sí nunca han sido fáciles o tranquilos. La historia del siglo XX y sus rivalidades de más larga data dan cuenta de ello.

Este agosto, cuando el primer ministro japonés, Shinzo Abe, brinde un discurso importante en la celebración del 70 aniversario del fin de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, tiene la oportunidad de acelerar el acercamiento o bien de interrumpirlo. Considerando su pedigrí derechista y sus opiniones revisionistas sobre la historia en tiempos de guerra de Japón, la región se está preparando para un nuevo episodio de turbulencia diplomática en torno a su discurso.…  Seguir leyendo »

A los diplomáticos estadounidenses les gusta definir a los aliados de su país con elogios. Así, el mundo notará cuando este entusiasmo está ausente –como cuando la Subsecretaria de Estado de los Estados Unidos, Wendy Sherman, reprendió públicamente a Corea del Sur por sus agravios aparentemente interminables contra Japón durante una conferencia reciente sobre Seguridad en Asia, realizada en Washington, DC. De acuerdo con Sherman, la postura de Corea del sur –reflejada en su exigencia a Japón de presentar sus disculpas una vez más por obligar a mujeres coreanas a dar servicios sexuales al ejército imperial durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial –ha generado “parálisis, no avances”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hace ya mucho que las relaciones diplomáticas en Asia Oriental están supeditadas a la historia. Pero el “problema histórico” de la región se intensificó los últimos tiempos, cuando el creciente nacionalismo de importantes actores regionales como China, Japón y Corea del Sur alimentó disputas por temas muy variados, desde territoriales y por los recursos naturales hasta cuestiones de monumentos de guerra y libros de texto escolares. ¿Podrán los países de Asia Oriental superar su pasado de conflictos y forjar un futuro compartido que beneficie a todos?

Tomemos por ejemplo la relación entre los más estrechos aliados que tiene Estados Unidos en la región: Japón y Corea del Sur.…  Seguir leyendo »

La tercera guerra

Nuestro mapamundi, viejo al menos de 70 años, ha sufrido en poco tiempo dos severas e inesperadas desgarraduras, bien visibles en las primeras páginas de los periódicos, que presagian un geografía política llena de novedades, incluso en las fronteras y en el número de los países que la componen. Esos dos sietes que se han abierto en las costuras del mundo de ayer son la anexión de Crimea por Rusia y la más que probable e inminente partición de Irak, con la consiguiente aparición de un nuevo país independiente como Kurdistán. Ambas son facturas diferidas de la caída de dos imperios y también del precario orden creado a continuación, a partir de 1989 por iniciativa de la Unión Europea y EE UU, en el caso de los países del antiguo bloque soviético, Ucrania incluida; y de 1919 por la de Francia y Gran Bretaña, que se repartieron y trazaron las fronteras sobre los territorios del extinto imperio otomano.…  Seguir leyendo »

El invierno es la temporada alta de la diplomacia de la India, pues el tiempo fresco y soleado constituye un telón de fondo ideal para la ceremonia, las sesiones fotográficas en el Taj Mahal o el Fuerte Rojo de Delhi y los acuerdos bilaterales, pero este invierno ha sido particularmente impresionante, pues dirigentes del Japón y de Corea del Sur la han visitado para hacer avanzar la causa de la cooperación en materia de seguridad en Asia.

La primera en llegar fue la Presidenta de Corea del Sur, Park Geun-hye. Pese a contar con un fundamento económico sólido, la relación bilateral ha carecido durante mucho tiempo de una dimensión válida de seguridad, pero la reciente autoafirmación de China –incluida su declaración unilateral en pasado mes de noviembre de una nueva zona de identificación de la defensa aérea, que se superpone en unos 3.000 kilómetros cuadrados a la de Corea del Sur, en el mar del Japón– ha animado a Park a reforzar los vínculos de su país con la India en materia de seguridad.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dados los desafíos abrumadores que enfrenta Japón, no queda más que admirar la determinación del primer ministro, Shinzo Abe, para poner fin al largo periodo de dos décadas de estancamiento económico del país. Su estrategia de las –“tres flechas”: una enorme expansión monetaria, mayor gasto público y reformas estructurales– es teoréticamente sólida. Sin embargo, solo se ha lanzado hasta ahora una flecha y media.

El paquete de estímulo se contrarresta mediante aumentos de los impuestos al consumo destinados a reducir la enorme carga de deuda –proceso que conducirá a muchos consumidores japoneses a ajustar su gasto a la baja. Falta aún introducir las reformas estructurales prometidas en el sector energético, el mercado laboral y en las políticas de competencia, y parece improbable que surtan efecto pronto.…  Seguir leyendo »