The difficult world and regional situation causes rapprochement between South Korea and Japan

Historically, relations between Japan and South Korea have been difficult due to the issues that occurred with Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945 and the enslavement of more than 800,000 Koreans as forced laborers in Tokyo factories. and forcing at least 200,000 women to become sexually abused on behalf of Japanese occupation soldiers; moreover there have been disputes over some islets, controlled by Seoul after the defeat of the empire of the rising sun. The Korean Supreme Court brought these issues back to the fore when it ruled in 2018 that the Japanese companies involved should compensate Korean people who are victims of slavery, which resulted in Tokyo’s restrictions on imports of Korean products, which undermined relations between the two states until the dialogue is blocked. One of the points of Shinzo Abe’s program was to change the pacifist constitution, as a first step towards an approach that could allow China to be contained, in this perspective also the relationship with South Korea had to become collaborative, both from the point of diplomatic point of view, and from the economic one, precisely to fight Beijing also on the production level. Abe’s work was only started, but which, for relations between the two countries, was fundamental and which, in the current scenario, allowed the start of a reconciliation between the two nations. In this context, the first official visit of a Japanese head of government, since 2011, to South Korean soil takes place. Of course, the threat from Pyongyang is the primary urgency of the discussions, because the atomic threat has not been defused, but other topics will be on the table at the meeting. To further facilitate the resumption of contacts, the Tokyo government has planned a project to compensate enslaved workers, as requested by the Korean Supreme Court and this has determined the new judgment of Seoul, which has defined the Japanese state from a militaristic aggressor to a partner who shares universal values from south korean country. This increasingly relaxed atmosphere had already favored the visit of the president of Seoul to Japan, which took place last March and after twelve years of absence. The normalization of diplomatic relations has made it possible to address issues of common development such as defence, the economy and finance. At the moment, what worries the two executives the most is mutual security, given the threat of North Korea’s growing ballistic and nuclear capability, but also the attitude of Moscow and the expansionism of China, which has made large investments in military sector to strengthen its war apparatus. Behind this rapprochement, as well as the reasons already stated, there is the diplomatic action of Washington, which has for some time placed the contrast to China for the supremacy of the eastern seas at the center of its international interest, both for Japan and Korea South, the USA represents the major ally, but the distance between Seoul and Tokyo has not so far allowed a synergy to develop a closer trilateral relationship, especially against the more immediate threat represented by Pyongyang; but also the developments of the Ukrainian war, with Russia openly against the Western bloc, is a serious cause for concern, considering Moscow’s progressive rapprochement with Beijing. If North Korea is the closest threat, the real bogeyman are Chinese ambitions, which with a potential action against Taiwan would jeopardize the already fragile regional balances, risking dragging the two countries into a conflict; beyond these concrete threats, the general attitude of Beijing, increasingly determined to establish a zone of influence under its control, must be the decisive argument for putting aside the distances between the two countries and convincing them to establish ever closer relations to unify efforts to safeguard their mutual safety. From China’s point of view, the resumption of dialogue between the two countries will not be seen in a positive way, because it favored its policy in the area, even if indirectly, on the contrary now, Beijing will also have to deal with the synergy with the United States and it will certainly not be welcome: this could cause displays of force in the eastern seas, raising the level of guard in a region repeatedly in the balance due to possible incidents between the armed forces of countries with opposing interests.

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