Japan and South Korea plot rapprochement amid rising regional tensions

To deal with the rise in power of the Chinese but also North Korean and Russian armies in the Western Pacific theater, Washington can rely on 3 powerful allies, militarily efficient and modern: Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. . Unfortunately for the United States, and contrary to the situation in Europe where yesterday's adversaries were able to put an end to their past tensions to face the Soviet Union from the end of the 40s, the risks in the Pacific theater were, if not less, in any case more localized, on the whole Cold War. In fact, far from being forced to make common cause in the face of a greater threat, Tokyo, Taipei and Seoul have followed divergent paths in terms of defense cooperation, while the tensions inherited from the abuses perpetrated by the Imperial Japanese Armies throughout the first part of the XNUMXth century on these two neighbours, were regularly exacerbated by nationalist movements for internal political purposes.

Thus, in 2020, while the 3 countries depend directly on the United States for their Defense, that they share common major threats and that there are significant economic dependencies between them, their armed forces did not collaborate, nor even exchanged information that was critical for everyone, such as the detection of North Korean missile launches. Since then, in particular because of the coming to power of new leaders in Japan and South Korea, and above all the very significant increase in the perception of the Chinese and North Korean threat, relations between the countries have begun to evolve. This was notably the case in March 2021, during the visit of the American Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, when the Japanese Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi confirmed that US forces stationed in Japan could use Japanese bases to support Taiwanese armed forces, these coming to face a Chinese attack. Since then, things have evolved further, particularly on the occasion of publication of the new Japanese Defense White Paper in the summer of 2022, which designates China but also Russia as major threats, and to designate the de facto autonomy of Taiwan as a critical security issue for the country.

North Korea Hypersonic glider Military Alliances | Defense Analysis | South Korea
North Korea fired nearly 2022 ballistic and cruise missiles in 88, largely towards the Sea of ​​Japan, while South Korea and Japan have not shared detection information since 2019

However, the situation was more complex between Tokyo and Seoul. Indeed, under the impetus of Moon Jae-in's government, relations between the two countries deteriorated considerably in 2019, after the South Korean Supreme Court upheld the validity of a government decision requiring payment by Japan of damages to South Korea for the forced labor of its population during the period of Japanese occupation of the peninsula from 1910 to 1945, while for Tokyo, this question had been settled by agreements and economic compensation granted in 1965 and then in 1998. These tensions, initially economic, led to the significant deterioration of military cooperation, which was far from being very advanced between the two countries, with in particular the end of cooperation in the detection of ballistic missiles launched by North Korea. It is most likely to regain the cooperation that is now essential for the two countries in the face of the proliferation of missile launches by Pyongyang, but also to cooperate in the face of the increasingly numerous and significant incursions by the Chinese and sometimes Russian naval and air fleets, that South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin announced at a press conference this weekend that the South Korean government was working on a new plan that would potentially allow the two countries to renew economic and especially military ties more in-depth.


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