Tensions between Japan and South Korea are an ongoing concern, with controversies relating to historical issues periodically souring diplomatic relations. Japan recently sent its ambassador back to South Korea after a three-month absence following the placement of another “comfort woman” statue. The Japan-ROK relationship sometimes prevents top-level trilateral summits with the U.S.: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former Presidents Park Geun-hye and Barack Obama only managed to meet twice on the sidelines of the 2014 and 2016 Nuclear Security Summits, at the urging of Obama, to discuss regional security. Abe and Park met twice as well in 2015 and 2016.
However, lower-level trilateral meetings on security issues, particularly North Korea, are held with regularity, most recently the 9th Defense Trilateral Talks this April in Japan. The three militaries have also conducted joint exercises, including a new anti-submarine warfare drill this year. Such functional steps are necessary to prepare trilateral responses to regional threats.
This article was originally published in The Diplomat on April 27, 2017. Read the full article here.