Commentary | August 29, 2016

South Korean Defense Ties Key for Japan

The geopolitical and security challenges posed by China and North Korea will dominate the agenda of new Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada in the coming months. Yet a sustained effort to nurture Japan's defense relationships with like-minded partners will also be needed.

After its alliance with the U.S., there is arguably no more critical partner for Japan's security than South Korea. Unfortunately, due to histrionics on both sides, the bilateral security relationship has lagged in recent years and enhanced security relations remain politically challenging for Seoul.

The appointment of Inada as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet shake up on Aug. 3 was controversial due to her hawkish security views and her previous positions on contentious historical issues. Inada has been a frequent visitor to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japan's war dead, a habit that has already raised alarm with China and South Korea. Abe's choice of Inada for defense was also surprising considering the high-profile nature of the post after the passage of last year's controversial legislation to allow the military to back up overseas allies.

 

Read the full commentary in Nikkei Asian Review here.