My summer has never been busier! Instead of a break, it has been a relentless series of casework, depositions and writing media articles. So busy that I couldn't even post them on this blog.
I ended up writing three articles about the relations between South Korea and Japan in less than three weeks. For the latest two articles, I collaborated with William Sposato in Tokyo who provided an invaluable perspective from Japan.
In the first piece, William and I argued that the two countries should keep the history-related issues on its track, and focus on nurturing the robust bilateral relationship:
Japan and South Korea Don’t Have to Love Each Other to Be Allies [Foreign Policy]None of the historical issues changes the obvious fact that Japan and South Korea are very important to each other. Both are prosperous democracies that are facing off two of the greatest international security challenges of the 21st century—a rising hegemon in China and a nuclear North Korea. As two of the world’s leading industrial powers (Japan is fourth in the world in industrial output, South Korea seventh), the countries have formed a close economic relationship in which each takes a different but complementary position in the global supply chain. For example, South Korea is a global leader in semiconductor production, but South Korean companies buy from Japanese companies the high-tech machinery and processed chemicals with which to build the semiconductors. It will now have to be seen if the latest action by Tokyo puts any meaningful dent in those ties.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what Abe Shinzo administration decided to do. It is a deeply regrettable decision, for which I had no kind words to spare:
Japan’s Trade War Is as Futile as Trump’s [Foreign Policy]The post hoc nature of Japan’s baseless claim about South Korea’s diverting strategic materials to North Korea indicates that Tokyo’s measures were not a deeply considered plan but a reckless fit of pique against the Korean Supreme Court’s decision on wartime slave labor. That means a democratic Japan is directing trade restrictions at South Korea, a liberal democracy and ally, in order to defend imperial Japan’s use of slave labor during World War II. In doing so, Japan is decoupling its economy from South Korea, pushing Korean companies to partner up with China and Russia. This harms not only the bilateral relationship between Japan and South Korea but also the trilateral alliance among the United States, Japan, and South Korea—the cornerstone of the United States’ Pacific order. In a critical region facing security challenges posed by China and North Korea, weakening the trilateral alliance is the last thing the world needs.