Saturday, December 26, 2015

On Foreign Minister Kishida’s Upcoming Trip to Seoul

I whacked out the following answers to the questions from a media organization. I know that it will not use a certain part of it in its report, so here’s it is, for public viewing in its entirety.

What are the prospects for progress in the comfort woman talks when Japanese and SKorean foreign ministers meet Monday?

I will be astounded if the two foreign ministers do not come forth with a substantive and irreversible framework for resolution.

What would that mean for bilateral relations? What do the two sides stand to gain from improving relations?

It should produce an immediate improvement in the background to the bilateral relations, which should lead most prominently to more Korean entertainment (TV programs, pop groups) coming Japan’s way and more Japanese tourists going the other way. Prospects for progress in the Japan-China-ROK FTA negotiations will also be marginally improved. Over the long-run, if the improvement holds, the direct investment climate will also improve, leading to more synergy between the two economies. Beyond the economic, we can expect better cooperation between the two militaries and more broadly security establishments, which should please Washington no end.

What other sticking points are there in moves to repair relations between the two sides?

There’s the back wages of the conscripted workers (about which I could go on forever, as someone close to be was a conscripted Japanese student worker who went on to work after the war at a company that had employed Korean workers (as well as Japanese student workers, presumably)), but I suspect that the Blue House will lean on the courts, who are themselves good at reading the prevailing public view. There’s Takeshima, but South Korea has possession, so what the Japanese authorities have to say and do about it is of less significance than the symbolism that the comfort women issue has taken on. Another Yasukuni visit by a Japanese prime minister would be problematic, but it’s more of a China issue—Korea never fought a war against Japan, so the Class A war criminals are not their problem—and the last thing that Mr. Abe wants to do at this point is to provoke Mr. Xi Jinping and the PLA unnecessarily.

No comments: