Will Japan-ROK relations go to a complete showdown when friction extends to security?

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 Will Japan-ROK relations go to a complete showdown when friction extends to security?


On July 11, local time, people gathered in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to protest against Japanese export control. Image Visual China

Recently, friction between Japan and South Korea has been escalating. First, in the field of economy and trade. Two days after the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, the Ministry of Economy and Industry issued a sudden announcement that it would restrict the export of three kinds of semiconductor materials to South Korea from July 4. It also announced that it would consider removing South Korea from the list of trade-friendly countries in the past. On August 2, the Japanese government announced its decision to remove South Korea from the so-called white list of exports, which means that South Korea may no longer enjoy the discount of Japans high-end technology export exemption application.

This action immediately aroused strong opposition from the Korean government and the people. In response, the Korean government also announced on August 12 that it would clear Japan from its export white list. On August 22, the presidential palace of South Korea announced its decision to abolish the Military Intelligence Protection Agreement signed between the two countries in 2016. In this way, the relations between Japan and South Korea are not only manifested in the frictions of economic and trade relations, but also in the danger of frictions and even the breakdown of showdown.

The problems left over from history are repeated.

Rare friction in the field of safety

Originally, the post-war relations between Japan and South Korea were relatively close on the whole. Although the two countries are often at odds with each other because of historical knowledge and some legacy problems, there are also areas where the needs and interests of the two countries are in line. On the one hand, the economic, trade and cultural relations between the two countries are relatively close. On the other hand, both countries are important allies of the United States in East Asia. They also have similar or similar interests in the field of political security. Moreover, Japan and South Korea have always believed in the principle of free trade, which is very important for both sides to build a country by trade. Especially in the current trend of globalization of global industrial chain links, Japan and South Korea should be more in need of cooperation.

So why did Japan make such a move to South Korea this time, just after the G20 summit advocating free trade? It feels a little sudden and hard to understand. Japans explanation is that this decision was made only for the sake of security and for the sake of moderate adjustment of export management system. That is, Japan fears that high-tech products may be transferred to North Korea or other unfriendly countries via South Korea. However, South Korea believes that Japan has imposed sanctions against the attitude of South Korea on the issue of historical awareness.

Freezing three feet is not a days cold. In fact, the contradiction between Japan and South Korea has existed for a long time, and gradually superimposed over time, eventually leading to the current outbreak. Almost all the contradictions between Japan and Korea are mostly related to history. Although the two countries have tried many times to solve this legacy problem thoroughly, it is difficult to really end it over and over again.

Recently, Japan and South Korea have been entangled over the issue of comfort women and forced labor. In Japans view, the issue of war compensation had already been solved by the normalization of relations between Japan and South Korea in the 1960s. Nevertheless, in order to calm the repeated anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea, Japan has partially accepted this fact. On the issue of comfort women, the two countries reached an agreement during Parks administration, promising to settle the matter permanently through partial Japanese compensation and oral apology.

But in the view of some South Koreans, Japans issue of war compensation has not been solved, and the Japanese governments long-standing refusal to apologize is extremely disgusting. Especially after the change of regime in South Korea, the comfort women agreement signed between the two countries was almost completely overthrown. On the contrary, this issue is more intense than in the past. Many Korean non-governmental organizations have set up comfort women statues in many places in South Korea. The Korean domestic court recently decided that the compulsory labor force during Japans rule over South Korea won the lawsuit and asked Japan to apologize and compensate.

On the DPRK nuclear issue, Japan and South Korea share similar interests. For example, they all feel the security threat from North Korea and hope to achieve North Koreas nuclear abandonment. Under the coordination of the United States, there has been some security cooperation between Japan and South Korea. The Military Intelligence Exchange Agreement between Japan and South Korea is a typical example.

However, in the past year or so, Japan has been marginalized on the Korean nuclear issue with the easing of relations between the North and the South of the Peninsula and the relative easing of relations between the United States and North Korea. South Korea is increasingly ignoring Japans existence, and even the two countries are experiencing some friction in the area of security that has never been a problem. For example, Japan and South Korea recently met at sea, and Japan accused South Korea of using fire-control radar. Although South Korea does not admit it, it makes both sides very unhappy after all. In addition, there are reports that the United States tried to invite Japan to join the United Nations Army stationed in South Korea, which was also fiercely opposed by South Korea.

Politicization of economic issues is difficult to overwhelm South Korea

There is little possibility of complete decoupling of trade and economy between the two countries.

These two problems make the Japanese people, from the government to the people, extremely angry with Korea. Therefore, the Japanese government tries to take advantage of Japans superiority in high-tech and Korean industrys dependence on Japan to punish and suppress Korea. It wants to tell Korea that there are not only historical problems and the DPRK nuclear issue between the two countries. While enjoying Japans economic benefits, Korea can not still leave the strong anti-Japanese national situation at home. Xus development and the neglect of Japans existence on the Korean nuclear issue.

Of course, Japans politicization of economic issues is very difficult to completely overwhelm South Korea. On the contrary, it has further triggered a strong rebound in South Korea, and anti-Japanese sentiment has increased. South Koreas initiative to announce the abolition of the military intelligence protection agreement between the two countries shows that South Korea is unlikely to make a clear concession on the issue of Japan.

With the development of Japan-ROK relations to such an extent, it is certain that both sides will suffer economic losses. However, as a relatively high-end industrial chain, Japan will lose less, while Korea will lose more. In addition, it will also affect East Asian economic cooperation and even some of the world economy, which is not a good thing for the benign cooperation of the whole world industrial chain and its normal trade development.

However, this will not lead to military friction between Japan and South Korea. On the one hand, it is because the mutual exclusion between Japan and South Korea in the field of military security mainly comes from psychological rather than practical interests. On the other hand, Japan and South Korea are both major allies of the United States in East Asia, and the United States will not allow them to have military conflicts. Once the security crisis in any sense occurs again in the Korean Peninsula and even in East Asia, the common interests of Japan and South Korea will increase.

In the field of economy and trade, the possibility of complete decoupling between Japan and South Korea is also not great. The economic and trade frictions between the two sides are actually limited. Japan has only raised the threshold of censorship for some products exported to Korea, but it does not strictly restrict their exports. While resisting Japan with high profile, South Korea is also seeking to re-enter the so-called white list of Japanese exports through negotiations. In a word, the current situation that Japan and South Korea still need each other while they are in friction has largely inhibited the two countriesrelations from going to a complete showdown.

Source: Red Star News Responsible Editor: Dai Wenjia_NB12498