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"Comfort women" agreement impacts Northeast Asia relations

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

12-30-2015 16:38 BJT

By Zhou Yongsheng, deputy director of Japan Research Center of China Foreign Affairs University

On December 28, the foreign ministers of Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) had agreed to resolve the comfort women issue.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said, "The Japanese government strongly feels responsibility" for comfort women, since the dignity of many women were scarred "under the involvement of" the Imperial Japanese Army.


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his "apology and remorse from the heart." Tokyo pledged to offer 1 billion yen (8.3 million U.S. dollars) to establish a foundation to support former South Korean sex slaves.

The agreement will have a long-term impact on Northeast Asia relations, which has long been a contentious issue between the ROK and Japan. Tokyo's actions would ease tensions and boost bilateral relations.

Tokyo seeks a stronger alliance with Seoul to contain Beijing. In recent years, South Korea and China relations have drawn closer together.

Accordingly, Tokyo is taking steps to split Beijing's ties with Seoul. Yet, China and South Korea continue to enjoy good relations, and it won't be easy for Japan to split the two nations apart. However, Tokyo will not give up so easily.

Washington wants to engage in a rebalancing policy in Northeast Asia. The comfort women agreement was sparked by US pressure on Japan and South Korea. 

To curb the rise of Beijing, Washington is forming strategic alliances in East Asia into the so called "first island chain."  Despite Tokyo and Seoul not having prior military cooperation, Washington had imposed a military alliance to put pressure on Beijing.

The pro-American military alliance in Northeast Asia can transform into an "advanced force" to exasperate China's energy. Due to historical conflicts between Japan and South Korea, relations have remained rigid, which undermines US geo-political strategy.

Washington had pressed Tokyo to ease tensions with South Korea. The US wants both sides returning to the negotiating table to share military intelligence and exchange military goods and services.

The comfort women agreement benefits Washington. Tokyo can break away from its isolation in Northeast Asia, and offer favorable treatment to Seoul's foreign policy efforts.

Japan's right-wing policies in the territories and on historical issues have ruined relations with its Northeast Asian neighbors. Tokyo wishes to reach out to other nations as well.

South Korea President Park Geun-hye has close relations with Beijing, but that has caused some opposition from the conservatives.  They prefer to ease relations with Tokyo instead.

But for South Korea, the agreement did not come without concessions. Seoul pledged not to negotiate with Tokyo on the comfort women issue in the future. South Korea will remove a comfort women statue placed in front of the Embassy of Japan in Seoul.

Japan only admits to claiming responsibility for the comfort women in vague terms. But Tokyo never confessed to the Japanese government's approval for its army to recruit comfort women. 

The compensation package is a tiny amount, when taking a per-person value into consideration. It is in the form of an allowance instead of a lump sum payment, which is unfavorable to comfort women and their relatives. 

The total amount has increased from 100 million yen to 1 billion yen, and it is still a winning game for Japan to resolve this headache.

Beijing may suffer negative repercussions from the agreement. Earlier, South Korea had turned to China to confront Japan on common interests with a similar historical background.

Seoul's reliance on Beijing would drop, despite the two sides holding similar stances on other historical topics. The agreement does not offer much diplomatic flexibility for South Korea, but Japan has more room to maneuver relations among China, Japan and ROK.

Tokyo is inserting a wedge into nations, including China, South Korea, Russia and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  Consequently, Beijing's strategic initiatives on historical issues would be impacted.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


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