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Two-track approach is needed to improve Korea-Japan relationship

Two-track approach is needed to improve Korea-Japan relationship

Posted November. 03, 2015 09:10,   


The leaders of South Korea and Japan held their first bilateral summit on Monday, where they discussed a variety of issues on history, security, economy, and so on. They came to an agreement at the meeting, which lasted more than an hour, to build a future-oriented, mutually beneficial relationship by resolving major issues that have blocked cooperation between the two nations. It is highly recognizable that the long-awaited summit has paved a way for strengthening diplomatic ties between the two neighbors.

South Korean President Park and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have also agreed to speed up the talks on the comfort women issue, the biggest source of conflict the bilateral relationship. It seems that Park chose to accept Abe’s deal rather than insisting on an agreement within this year. For South Korea, the best scenario would have been a change of attitude from Japan, but the fact that the two leaders reached a certain level of deal itself is meaningful.

South Korea and Japan clearly disagree over how to resolve the issue of wartime sexual slavery. It is possible that the two nations might see further frictions during the process of negotiation. The Japanese government should take sincere measures to help heal the scars of the victims and apologize to Koreans. This will be beneficial to Japan as well.

In the economic sense, the biggest accomplishment for South Korea was convincing Japan to back it up if the former decides to join the TPP negotiations. It is better late than never that the two leaders have finally taken a step forward to overcome historical disagreements and seek cooperation by closely exchanging opinions in crucial agenda that are in line with South Korea`s national interests.

Despite the longstanding historical disputes, the two countries have to work together in many areas including North Korea’s nuclear issue, economy, and culture. South Korea should keep in mind that excessively engaging in historical disputes with Japan could lead to undermining its own national interests, although it should not make concessions in the sexual slavery issue. A desirable diplomatic strategy for South Korea would be a two-track approach which draws a distinction between historical arguments and security, economic, cultural cooperation.