World War II still casts long shadow on Asian relations

tags: World War II, Japan, United States, South Korea




TOKYO — In the courtly world of diplomacy, the meeting between Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and President Park Geun-hye of South Korea was something of a shock.

Mr. Hagel was in the region to try to revitalize America’s faltering “pivot” to Asia and had one especially pressing request for Ms. Park: to try to get along better with Japan. The steely Ms. Park instead delivered a lecture about Japan’s “total absence of sincerity” over the suffering that imperial Japan caused Korea in the last century and finished with a request of her own: that Washington force Tokyo to behave.

“If Germany had continued to say things that inflicted pain, while acting as if all was well, would European integration have been possible?” she asked Mr. Hagel. “I think the answer is no.”...

“History issues are having impacts on us and our alliances in Asia in ways that we never anticipated,” said Thomas Berger, an associate professor of international relations at Boston University.

While history has long haunted relations between Japan and South Korea, the recent chill is being driven partly by the very pivot to Asia that increasingly makes the administration anxious that its allies get along. To bolster its attempts to contain China’s territorial ambitions, the United States has supported Japan’s moves to strengthen its armed forces despite South Korea’s fear that Japan is reverting to militarism....



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