In the CSM, Clayton Jones asks, “Can Japan and South Korea ever be military partners, even allies?”
Can Japan and South Korea ever be military partners, even allies?
Each nation is a democracy. They are already allies individually with the United States. Each trains with the American military separately in joint naval exercises.
Most of all they are close neighbors in the tough neighbor of Northeast Asia that includes North Korea, China, and Russia. The threat of North Korea someday launching a nuclear-tipped missile toward either country should have had the effect of drawing Japan and South Korea closer.
But as much as the United States wants the two countries to cozy up, history has long kept them apart.
I’d imagine South Korea and Japan cooperate more in the security sphere than anyone in a position to say will, at least on this side of the East Sea. In recent months, China has been making Korea—Japan cooperation a lot easier by acting like a thug, but domestic political considerations still make it difficult. For example, when news broke that Japan was sounding out Korea about the possibility of dispatching Japanese ships and aircraft to Korea to rescue Japanese nationals in the event of a war—not a completely unreasonable idea, mind you—even the conservative Chosun Ilbo felt the need to respond:
But for the South, it is difficult to accept the possibility of the Japanese military being dispatched to the Korean Peninsula as long as Tokyo continues to assert its territorial claim over the Dokdo Islets, not to mention living memories of Japan’s occupation and its denial of World War II atrocities. China views the South Korea-U.S.-Japan joint military exercises as a hostile move. For South Korea, the matter is extremely delicate and requires a cautious approach. Kan’s remarks were not only uncalled for but risk causing needless diplomatic friction.
Mind you, the Chosun was careful not to rule out the possibility completely, and one suspects that in their heart of hearts, the Chosun and a good many of its readers want to see greater security cooperation with Tokyo. To give you a better idea of what Japan’s up against, see Korea Times columnist Kim Tae-gyu, who wrote:
From the perspective of Koreans, however, the bottom line is not the right to get compensation. The thing is whether Japan genuinely regrets its past wrongdoings as it has said many times and whether it is ready not to commit such bad things in the future.
I have three benchmarks to check the deeply-ingrained mantra of the Japanese with regard to the above-mentioned question.
First, they are required to return all the Korean cultural properties, which they had forcefully taken, without any conditions. Second, they must sincerely apologize for mobilizing “comfort women,’’ or young women who were forced to serve as sexual slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Third, they should no longer claim sovereignty over Dokdo, South Korea’s easternmost islets, citing some bizarre reasoning from international agreements.
They are not about money. They are not about legal contentions, either. They are the minimum that Japan should show to Korea in order for the former to convince the latter that the country is now 100 percent fine to be an ally with.
Otherwise, Korea will harbor suspicions about the real intentions of Japan, which are still seen as aggressive and belligerent in the eyes of many Koreans; and this gives us the rights to worry very seriously about something like Kan’s remarks on a troop dispatch.
Likewise, I’ve been citing Canadian occupation of Machias Seal Island and jackbooted Canuckistani oppression of its native puffin population as grounds for a US withdrawal from NATO. Sadly, Washington doesn’t appear to be listening. When the Canadians put Defense Scheme No. 1 into motion, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
One place I can very well see greater Korea—Japan security cooperation, and sooner rather than latter, is in theaters outside of Northeast Asia, especially naval cooperation against pirates and other threats to shipping lanes.