HONOLULU – When visiting South Korea, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it was up to Tokyo and Seoul to put history behind them and move forward. Yet, recent events show history is still the issue in bilateral ties. Although these inimical relations are not new, officials in both countries continue to incense their counterparts. While Tokyo needs to recognize the consequences its actions are having on relations, Seoul is not blameless. This trend cannot continue, but they should refrain from looking to the United States to mediate their dispute.
The actions by Japanese officials that anger Seoul are well reported. Shortly after Shinzo Abe became premier, he stated there was no set definition of what constitutes aggression. This riled Seoul as it raised doubts about his commitment to Japan’s 1995 official apology for the colonization of the Korean Peninsula and invasion of other countries. And while Seoul was maddened by visits to Yasukuni Shrine by members of Abe’s cabinet and his Liberal Democratic Party throughout 2013, Abe’s December visit infuriated Seoul, which views visits as glorification of Japan’s wartime past.
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