Stronger ties will help U.S. respond to China, North Korea
Agreement Monday on sex-slave legacy `final and irreversible’
Japan and South Korea’s landmark accord to end a divisive historical dispute will lead to increased economic and military cooperation between the U.S. allies, complementing the Obama administration’s efforts to counter China’s rise and North Korea’s nuclear saber-rattling.
The two countries on Monday announced a “final and irreversible” agreement over the issue of comfort women, who were coerced to serve in Japanese military brothels before and during World War II. Under the deal, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government apologized, saying it was “painfully aware” of its responsibility for their suffering and would finance a fund for the about four dozen surviving “comfort women.”
Tensions over the issue have risen since Abe came to power three years ago, complicating U.S. efforts to build a united front with its North Asian allies as the Obama administration looks to expand its military and strategic re-balance to the region. With China becoming more aggressive in asserting territorial claims and signs that North Korea has been expanding its nuclear arsenal, the U.S. has been trying to prod Japan and South Korea to resolve the issue and step up strategic cooperation.
“The United States has been always, always, always looking for ways for these two to cooperate,” said Robert Kelly, an international relations professor at Pusan National University in South Korea. “The easiest way forward on the military and diplomatic side would be to do the intelligence-sharing agreement that was almost reached a few years ago. That was basically about to go through and it literally sank.”
Those talks were suspended as relations between the two countries deteriorated after the 2012 return to power of Abe, who enjoys support from nationalists who deny the Japanese military forced the women into sexual servitude. Abe infuriated South Korea’s public in 2013 when he visited a Tokyo war shrine seen by many in Asia as a symbol of past militarism. Read more