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One of the biggest disappointments of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Asia policy has been his inability to facilitate stronger relations between Japan and South Korea — America’s two most important allies in the region.

For more than 20 years, Japanese and South Korean leaders have discussed building a “future-oriented” relationship, but fundamental historical differences remain an insurmountable obstacle. Seoul’s recent effective withdrawal from a 2015 agreement with Tokyo on the “comfort women” issue, as well as South Korean Supreme Court rulings ordering Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel to compensate Koreans conscripted for wartime labor during Japan’s colonial rule, have aggravated historical tensions.

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