The stance of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet on issues related to Japan’s wartime history has begun to overshadow its trilateral cooperation with the United States and South Korea in dealing with defiant North Korea.
During a bilateral summit in Washington on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama stressed the importance of the trilateral partnership, but South Korean President Park Geun Hye replied that for peace in East Asia, Japan should have a proper view of its history, according to South Korean sources.
Park’s tough remarks came like a bolt out of the blue to Japanese officials. Before the summit, a key official in Tokyo had been optimistic, saying, “South Korea must be considering a response to North Korea separately” from the history issues.
Tokyo-Seoul relations took another body blow late last month when Japanese ministers and other lawmakers, including Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, made ritual spring visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which South Korea and China view as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.
The U.S. also has concerns about Abe’s views on Japan’s wartime history.
The U.S. Congressional Research Service recently described Abe as “a strong nationalist.” It said some of his statements “suggest Abe embraces a revisionist view of Japanese history that rejects the narrative of imperial Japanese aggression and victimization of other Asians.”