Pivot from South Korea to Japan upsets Chinese regime

The rapprochement initiated by President Yoon Seok-Youl strikes part of the South Korean opinion, attached to memorial questions.

by Philippe Mesmer (Tokyo, Correspondence)

The priority displayed by the South Korean Conservative President, Yoon Seok-Youl, to bring his country closer to Japan and, beyond, other liberal democracies, is not smooth. In doing so, Mr. Yoon dismisses the Chinese neighbor and alienates part of the South Korean opinion.

Taking advantage of the birthday, Wednesday 1 Mars, the 1919 independence movement against Japanese colonization (1910-1945), Mr. Yoon presented Japan as “past of the Rank of militarist aggressor to that of partner who shares the same universal values ​​as we “.

An appreciated positioning in the archipelago, where the secretary general of the government, Hirokazu Matsuno, spoke of South Korea as a “important neighbor” with which Tokyo had to collaborate to meet the challenges at the international level. “Bilateral cooperation with our allies is important, but trilateral cooperation is just as much. We strongly support this vision of President Yoon of a more cooperative and turned future relationship with Japan,” added Ned Price, Spokesperson for the US State Department. Washington pushes the rapprochement between Seoul and Tokyo in the face of North Korean but also Chinese threats.

“Somnambulism State”

These reactions contrast with the distrust of Beijing, translated into Global Times, the voice of Chinese power, by the description of a Yoon administration “hypnotized by an American lullaby” and “entry into state of sleepwalking in its diplomatic initiatives” .

The merger with Japan serves the policy of Mr. Yoon, who, as soon as he came to power in May 2022, expressed his desire to make South Korea an actor of international relations alongside liberal democracies against the authoritarian regimes. This choice broke with the past positions, aimed at the balance between the American ally and the Chinese neighbor, Seoul’s first trading partner.

This diplomatic turning point is justified by the North Korean threat but also by tensions with China, which had strongly reacted to the deployment, in 2016 in South Korea, of American anti-missile defense systems Thaad, considered in Beijing as a Pretext for Americans to spy on China. It is also part of the bipolarization observed worldwide, accelerated by the war in Ukraine.

“Define a common future”

To get closer to Tokyo, Mr. Yoon broke with what he described as “instrumentalization” of historical litigation for political purposes by his predecessor, Progressive Moon Jae-in (2017-2022). The latter had chosen to glorify the resistance movement of 1919 and to support memorial claims, in this case the questions of so -called “comfort” women, an understatement to speak of women sexually exploited by Japanese soldiers during the Second World War , but also forced work of Koreans for Japanese companies. Mr. Moon’s policy had permanently weakened the links with a retrifting Japan to all repentance.

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/Media reports cited above.