No Grand Bargain

News | January 14, 2016

Jonathan Miller, EWI's China, East Asia and United States fellow, discusses the importance and ramifications of Japan and South Korea reaching an agreement over the issue of South Korean "comfort women," who were taken into sex slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.  

In his article, Miller highlights how resolving the long-standing dispute over comfort women could have a far-reaching effect on improving political ties between Japan and South Korea. Better relations between Tokyo and Seoul would help facilitate a stronger collaboration on military intelligence sharing between the two countries. The U.S. has a strong interest in Japan and South Korea improving their relations as both are important U.S. allies, and with the recent North Korean nuclear bomb tests the need for quick and effective intelligence sharing is heightened. However, in the eyes' of China, stronger South Korean-Japanese relations would be a strategic loss as it would mean a stronger U.S. presence in the region. 

Resolving the issue also has important ramifications on trade agreements in Asia, as ongoing negotiations on the China-Japan-South Korea Free Trade Agreement could potentially be finalized. 

While an agreement on the comfort women issue is an important step in building better cooperation between Japan and South Korea, Miller stresses the fact that this will not comprehensively repair the countries' political relations.  

To read the article on Foreign Affairs, click here. (Paywall)