South Korea Retaliates Against Japan in Trade and Diplomatic Rift – The New York Times

South Korea and Japan have often had diplomatic and territorial disputes rooted in Japan’s colonial rule of Korea from 1910 until its surrender to Allied forces in 1945 at the end of World War II. But bilateral relations have soured further under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea.

Mr. Abe’s stance on South Korea has hardened since last year, when its top court upheld a ruling that a Japanese company, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, must compensate four Korean men who said they had been subjected to forced labor during the Japanese occupation.

Mr. Moon has in recent weeks accused Tokyo of weaponizing trade as retaliation over historical disputes, with his domestic supporters urging him not to give in under what they called Japan’s new “invasion,” meaning an attempt to subjugate South Korea economically

But on Monday, Mr. Moon also urged South Koreans to guard against “antagonistic nationalism.”

“Our response to Japan’s economic retaliation should not be emotional,” he said during a meeting with senior staff members. “We must remain resolute but cool.”

Last week, a district office in Seoul withdrew a plan to put up hundreds of “No Japan” placards on its streets after criticism that they would unnecessarily antagonize Japanese tourists.

In the past, Washington has often intervened behind the scenes to help keep diplomatic disputes between South Korea and Japan from escalating. But analysts have accused Mr. Trump of being reluctant to help repair the current rift.

On Friday, Mr. Trump warned that the dispute between South Korea and Japan was undermining Washington’s joint efforts with the two countries to address the common challenges posed by China and North Korea.

”South Korea and Japan are fighting all the time. They’ve got to get along because it puts us in a very bad position,” he said. “I’m concerned that they’re not getting along with each other.”

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