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8th May 2023 (7 Topics)

Japan, South Korea seek to deepen cooperation, overcome old disputes


Japan and South Korea agreed to take forward ties and move past lingering historical disputes, pledging to transform a relationship that could have broad implications for the region.


  • Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida became the first Japanese leader to visit Seoul in 12 years.
  • The visit followed a trip to Japan in March by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.

What are the common concern?

  • Both countries are brought together by shared concerns over
    • North Korea’s nuclear programme
    • China’s regional muscle-flexing

What are the disputes between South Korea and Japan?

Relations between the two North Asian U.S. allies have been strained over disputes dating to Japan's 1910-1945 occupation of Korea.

  • Japan's colonial-era atrocities: The two Asian nations have long had lukewarm relations because of Japan's colonial occupation of the peninsula for 35 years until 1945. Japan's colonial-era atrocities towards Korea, such as sexual slavery and forced labor.
  • Abuse of women workforce: Koreans accuse Japan of forcing women to work in wartime brothels for the Japanese military and using forced labour, among other abuses.
  • Trade restrictions: Relations deteriorated in 2019 when Japan restricted exports of high-tech material to South Korea.
  • Territorial dispute: The two countries also have a territorial dispute over a cluster of windswept volcanic islets, known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan.
    • The islets are controlled by Seoul, with a small contingent of coast guard personnel, but are also claimed by Tokyo.

How would it impact India?

  • India, which has friendly bilateral relations with both Japan and South Korea, is in a position to steer the trilateral relationship towards outcomes that provide an effective deterrent to China’s overreach.
  • India, Japan and South Korea are major countries willing to contribute to the stability and security of the Asia-Pacific region.
  • The latest development gives India a template to explore a new triangle with Japan and South Korea, where New Delhi shares a wide range of interests.
  • Common security issues:
    • maritime politics in East Asia and the Indian Ocean
    • non-traditional security threats
    • Chinese assertiveness
    • regional politics covering China, North Korea, and Afghanistan etc.
  • This possible trilateral cooperation tends to focus on the “balance of power” equation that can institutionalise structural frameworks in the Asia-Pacific region.

India’s Bilateral Cooperation with Japan and South Korea 

  • India’s Look East Policy was initiated in 1992 to deepen its relationship with Southeast Asia.
  • Since the introduction of the Look East Policy in 1992, New Delhi’s bilateral engagements with its East Asian partners have seen tremendous progress.
    • Its relations with Japan and South Korea have grown significantly as a result of the three ambitious nations’ shared progressive beliefs. 
  • In 2010 and 2011, respectively, India signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with South Korea and Japan, signify that the elevation of the relationship to integrate the developmental aspirations that all three countries encompassed with their economic growth paths.



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