In a signal of Washington's anticipation that its two top allies in Northeast Asia could reach some level of rapprochement, the U.S. offered up effuse praise for a proposal to resolve a dispute over wartime labor between Japan and South Korea, long a thorn in the side of improving ties.

The gushing words for a plan that some observers have said may not be durable highlighted a push by the United States to bring Seoul and Tokyo closer together, despite deep-seated reluctance in some areas of the two neighbors' political establishment.

Highlighting that apparent eagerness to endorse the plan, the U.S. appeared to pre-empt Seoul’s widely anticipated announcement on Monday by about 15 minutes, with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel issuing a statement praising Prime Minister’s Fumio Kishida’s “bold leadership” as he looks “to the future for a new partnership” with Seoul.