Are They Making Up in Asia? 🌏
Decades of Animosity
China and the two Koreas still have lingering animosities towards Japan because of their time spent as part of the Imperial Japanese Empire. Sour topics include comfort women, the disputed islands in the South China Sea and East China Sea, and a Name’s Race, to name a few. The tensions have boiled over in certain instances, but have largely remained a persistent headwind to any grand rapprochement.
First Trilateral Summit in 3 Years
That might have all changed last week when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Republic of Korea President Moon Jae-in met in the Japanese capital Wednesday and agreed that the Northeast Asian neighbors will cooperate on ending North Korea’s nuclear program and promoting free trade. The three countries further agreed to “cooperate for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” but left untouched the “concrete actions” necessary to achieve this goal.
Outlets in support of unity focus on the positive outcomes of the summit, including the creation of a Sino-Japanese defense hotline aimed at preventing military clashes stemming from their territorial row over East China Sea islands. They also highlight the current unity that these three Asian powers haven’t shown in decades. Notably, most news in this category came from international news sources which likely have less skin in the game (and possibly bias) compared to their counterparts in China, Japan and South Korea.
Those who believe friendship isn’t on the horizon acknowledge the May 9th 3-way summit, but highlight the divisions over specific “concrete actions” that should be expected of North Korea. The articles also focus on which country would be advantaged during the summit as opposed to focusing on greater regional unity. Most articles with a negative outlook on rapprochement came from Japanese news outlets, begging the question: do they represent the views of the Japanese people, policymakers or only their editors?
Is Asia finally coming together?
The North Korean issue has shaken up geopolitics this year, opening the door to new friendships and agreements not previously possible. However, it’s also likely that the threat of North Korea is overshadowing long-lasting regional issues, which call into question if reconciliation is actually possible. At a minimum, this recent trilateral summit, which has been repeatedly postponed since 2008, is a positive sign.
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