By Tsukasa Hadano and Yosuke Onchi
The Japanese government is wary of China’s wooing South Korea. There are no signs of improvement in relations between Japan and South Korea. Relations between U.S. and South Korea are strained over negotiations for South Korea’s host nation support for stationing U.S. forces in the country. Amid the increasing conflict between the U.S. and China, China’s moves may be intended to divide Japan, the U.S., and South Korea in an unguarded moment.
A Japanese government official was alarmed by the visit of Yang Jiechi, a Politburo member of China’s Communist Party, to South Korea, saying “South Korea may be brought over to China’s side.”
Japan-ROK relations remain frayed due to the wartime labor issue. In response to a court ruling, procedures for the sale of a Japanese company’s assets in South Korea are underway. Japan is prepared to take countermeasures if the assets are sold off. The countermeasures could further escalate tensions.
A disruption in cooperative relations between Japan, U.S., and South Korea may adversely affect the security of East Asia. The three countries cooperate in their response to North Korea.
The relations between Japan and China, which had been improving, are now at a standstill. China has tightened its grip on Hong Kong and repeatedly conducted provocations in the East China Sea and South China Sea.
Many in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) say Japan should take a hard line toward China. There has been no progress made in rescheduling Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit, postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Foreign Minister Toshimune Motegi’s two visits to Southeast Asia this month were made with China’s accelerated overtures to its neighbors in mind.
Many in the Japanese government and ruling parties think that Japan should maintain its economic relationship with China, Japan’s biggest trade partner. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga asserts that Japan should maintain a posture of holding dialogue with China, but “saying what should be said.”