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With Japan and South Korea’s $82 billion a year trade relationship rapidly deteriorating, the United States has remained adamant about preserving its neutrality and publicly ambivalent about what it is doing to prevent its two allies from undoing their careful bridge-building since normalizing relations in 1965.

Officials of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump preferring to avoid interjecting themselves into a sensitive dispute over painful historical differences, have instead focused their energies on the president’s high-stakes trade standoff with China, halting diplomatic outreach to North Korea, and efforts to secure favorable trade and burden-sharing terms with Seoul and Tokyo.

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