Japan and South Korea have a complicated history, but both face challenges with North Korea and a rising China.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, on his first foreign visit to South Korea since assuming his post two months ago, returned ancient royal books stolen during Japanese colonial rule but made no concessions Wednesday on long-running issues, despite rising concerns about China and North Korea.
While demonstrators outside the Japanese Embassy denounced Mr. Noda’s visit, Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak told him Japan “needs to make active efforts” over demands dating from 35 years of Japanese rule that ended in August 1945.
Well before Mr. Noda got here, however, Japanese diplomats made carefully clear that Japan is not going to budge on the question of compensation for women forced to serve Japanese soldiers as “comfort women” during World War II.
Still, among major mutual concerns are how to deal with North Korea diplomatically and militarily and what to make of the power of China.
“There have been talks about upgrading security cooperation,” says Jeff Kingston, director of Asia studies at Temple University's Tokyo campus. “China rising is a common problem. Japan sees opportunities and threats.”