With the help of the trilateral format, Washington hopes to finally solve the problem that has been a headache for American diplomats for many decades: the long-standing conflict between Japan and South Korea and the chronic unwillingness of these two countries to cooperate directly with each other on military-political issues, Andrei Lankov writes.
On August 18, a trilateral summit of the leaders of the United States, Japan, and South Korea was held at Camp David, the country residence of the American presidents. The final documents of the summit speak a lot about the need for cooperation between the three main democracies of the Pacific region. However, the real purpose of the summit was clear to all observers: it was aimed at strengthening military-political cooperation among the three countries, directed primarily against China, but also, albeit to a lesser extent, against North Korea and Russia.
A significant number of the summit’s decisions concerned the issues of military and political cooperation between Washington, Seoul and Tokyo. In particular, decisions were made on regular joint military manoeuvres, on the creation of an intelligence exchange system, and on cooperation in security issues in cyberspace.
It is no coincidence, however, that the tripartite format was chosen for the meeting, just as it is no coincidence that such summits should become regular. With the help of the trilateral format, Washington hopes to finally solve the problem that has been a headache for American diplomats for many decades: the long-standing conflict between Japan and South Korea and the chronic unwillingness of these two countries to cooperate directly with each other on military-political issues.
Both Japan and South Korea are tied to the United States with military-political alliances that were formally established in 1960 and 1954, respectively, and in actuality existed even before that. However, despite the reality and significance of the American-South Korean and American-Japanese alliances, they remain extremely difficult in many ways.
The problems in relations between Tokyo and Seoul are often explained by the fact that, on the one hand, the Koreans cannot forget or forgive the crimes that the Japanese imperialists committed in 1910-1945, when Korea was a Japanese colony; on the other hand, the Japanese aren’t ready to sincerely apologize for these past deeds. There is some truth in these statements — Japanese rule indeed left a bad memory. However, in Taiwan, where the local inhabitants were hardly treated any better by the Japanese rulers then the Koreans, there is no serious anti-Japanese sentiment.