Country Report: Japan (April 2018 with Focus on Korea)

Editorial Staff

Not only was Abe battered by a domestic scandal, his foreign policy was rocked by diplomacy, history, and trade shocks. The North Korean presence at the Winter Olympics saw Japanese media warning about Seoul turning soft and breaking away from the “maximum pressure” approach of Tokyo and Washington, which was reinforced by warnings in early March about North-South plans for a summit, only to be undercut by Trump’s decision to meet with Kim Jong-un. In place of a struggle focused on Seoul, suddenly trilateral relations were in jeopardy—even more so due to Trump’s threats directed at Japan-US trade apart from Korean matters. Moon Jae-in’s history speech on March 1 aggravated concerns about the “history card,” seen as a blow to bilateral relations in general. There was no saving grace for Japanese diplomacy—Abe was overshadowed at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony, deteriorating Sino-US and Russo-US relations and media images of the two major powers Abe was courting cast a shadow, and the close Abe-Trump bond appeared less as a reliable relationship than as something that would need tending in a rushed April visit by Abe.

Diplomacy with North Korea

On December 22, Kohara Masahiro in Yomiuri questioned the diplomatic path in response to the North Korean crisis noting that peace is in more doubt than at any point in the past as Kim insists on nuclear weapons and missiles to hit the United States and Trump promises that this will not be allowed. He noted that many Republicans support a preemptive strike, intent on blocking a threat to the US mainland regardless of the danger to which Japan and South Korea are exposed. Needed is a partner who can speak to Trump, and that is Abe. First, he needs to stick closely to Trump and get further reassurance that the nuclear umbrella is operating for Japan, and there is no decoupling in order to protect New York. Japan must convey that it seeks to keep the pressure up while boosting its missile defenses. Second, the key is China, whose desire for a freeze on military exercises should be accepted at least during the Olympic Games, while Abe strives for China’s cooperation, making use of the 40th anniversary of the peace treaty in 2018 to go to China. The article foresees that 2018 will be the year when the crossroads is reached between pressure or military action and dialogue, and Japan must strive diplomatically to avert the worst-case scenario.

Asahi Shimbun on January 22 pointed to a crossroads in Abe’s diplomacy with no exit in sight, as Abe was most concerned about North Korea and is travelling around the world to make sure that sanctions are tightened and keep pressure on Russia and China to do more. Yet, the article noted that China and South Korea are not on board with Abe, calling for dialogue. Having to rely on others with no direct line to the North, Abe runs the risk of alienating crucial partners in his approach.

Yomiuri in a February 8 editorial stressed Japan-US solidarity and a need for Seoul not to turn soft on Pyongyang, a warning repeated in its front-page headline. On February 28, another editorial asserted that despite the “moderation” assault from North Korea, international society would stick with sanctions, which are important for getting the beginning of negotiations on abandoning nuclear weapons and missiles. Meeting with North Koreans at the Olympics, Moon indicated that there has been sufficient preparation for dialogue between North Korea and the United States, which he is expecting. Both North and South Koreas are expecting to reduce the possibility of an attack on the North by the United States and aiming for a relaxation of sanctions. Yet, there is concern that this would allow the North time to complete its missile development. The Trump administration is ready to talk, but one must not forget twenty years of agreements to denuclearize that the North have been broken. While it is willing to have preliminary contacts, the United States will maintain maximum pressure until this goal is reached. A freeze would leave the threat in place; it is not a reason to drop one’s guard. Even as the sanctions web is tightening, North Korea continues to smuggle in oil and other prohibited products through transfers at sea, and the Trump administration is now imposing new sanctions. The Maritime SDF is conducting surveillance of smuggling at sea. A long-term tightening of sanctions is under way, including coast guard vessels from the United States. As Australia and South Korea join in linkages, an international system of control is taking shape. China says that the US sanctions system is one-sided, and it, as the lifeline for the North’s economy, must change and intensify pressure. Russia too must cooperate with Japan and the United States in the international cordon on North Korea. Dialogue seems useless.

On February 20, Iza posted an article warning of Moon Jae-in’s pro North Korea leanings, saying that his leftist government is as if the Japanese radical student movement of the 1960s had taken power. It warned that new South Korean textbooks would excise statements on the North on its attack starting the Korean War, its hereditary leadership, and its human rights record. Moon, it says, seeks constitutional revision, removing “liberal” from the expression a “liberal, democracy-based order.” Moon wants to unite, drawing closer to the socialist system.

Blaming China for sanctions-busting exports of daily-use goods to North Korea was seen in Sankei on January 18, and in the March issue of Voice, Furukawa Katsuhisa charged that the controls on smuggling from Japan have been too lax. Japanese goods are widely available in Pyongyang, going through Southeast Asia, China, and Taiwan. Furukawa accuses people in Japanese companies of working for the North. He also asserts that Japanese parts are in the nuclear weapons and missiles of North Korea, again warning of cooperating individuals in Japan. Unfortunately, he adds, Japan’s laws are too weak and blames the government for not fully enforcing the sanctions and allowing Zainichi to travel with the stipulation that they do not go to the North. Abroad, Furukawa points the finger especially at Belarus and Ukraine, but says that they are just the tip of the iceberg of the vast community of ongoing sanctions violators.

As Pyongyang’s “smile diplomacy” was proceeding, Sato Masaru in the March Chuo Koron called for Abe to abandon his “maximum pressure” approach. He predicted that Trump would shift to an “appeasement” approach, and Japan would be left isolated. Observing that Abe and Kono in January have doubled down on going abroad to arouse more pressure on Pyongyang, Sato suggests that Abe is stirring an atmosphere of fear in Japan in order to reform the postwar constitution and allow Japan to go to war. Dwelling on the abduction issue, he charges, is not productive or strategic. Sato calls for diplomacy with North Korea to realize mutual dependence.

On All Nippon News Network on February 28, the question was raised of Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un visiting Japan using aliases, following a report that they had been using Brazilian passports. No specific evidence is cited, but readers no doubt recall when Kim Jong-nam was caught visiting Disneyland under an alias and then deported rather than tried in Japan.

On March 7, Sankei responded to the announcement of North-South talks at the end of April with warnings of the lessons from the two prior summits and of danger ahead. Mention was made of appeasement and deception as well as Japan’s determination to stick to the line of pressure. South Korea was cited as the weak link in the Japan-US-ROK maximum pressure. The key is to proceed in parallel.

Daily Shincho on March 16 questioned Moon’s North Korean policy, anticipating nothing good from the late April North-South summit, as a kind of rerun of the 2000 and 2007 summits, despite the enthusiasm of South Korean leftists. At this point, Moon is no more than a message boy between Washington and Pyongyang. Explaining why Washington puts up with Moon, the article points to the absence of personnel, which gives Seoul certain freedom of action. On that same day, Wedge insisted that Washington would keep the pressure on North Korea, recalling a statement by Harry Harris in mid-February. With the US side boosting defense spending, the article asks if Japan will do the same. It applauds Trump’s rhetoric for containing the North without mentioning his decision to join in a summit in May. On that day Newsweek Japan asked if Kim Jong-un’s softened stance is due to the sanctions. Even if Trump will not relax them, his opening may give China and others an excuse to not do more. Yet, by agreeing to talks, the article concludes, Trump has made it more likely that the case will be persuasive to others that failure means more sanctions need to be imposed.

On March 8, Hiraiwa Shunji in Yomiuri gave voice to the prevalent thinking that Pyongyang was not serious and was only searching for a way to escape from the tightening sanctions. Keeping dialogue going, it could avoid US military action. While drawing assistance from South Korea, it could work to relax the Japanese and US sanctions, as Seoul stove to explain its approach to the two states. No optimism about talks was evident. On that day Sankei emphasized the early April visit of Abe to the United States, insisting that maximum pressure had brought the North to the table and it must be continued—through both sanctions and military means. Abe’s other goal is to get Trump to raise the abductions issue.

On March 10, Tokyo Shimbun stressed the feeling in Seoul about its go-between diplomacy, striving to bring both Pyongyang and Washington along. Anticipating that the North would demand the withdrawal of US forces in return for verification, the article asked how far Seoul would go to retain its leading role and whether the other two would allow that. Unwilling to let Pyongyang leave the talks, Seoul will need to open the window to China, Russia, and Japan to discuss Northeast Asian security. A separate article that day in the same newspaper asserted that some in China are now concerned about its loss of influence in Pyongyang, while Russians are thinking of ways to resume the Six-Party Talks or draw the Security Council into the picture. For Asahi, the focus on March 7 was on China and Russia welcoming the North-South talks, and later on the promise of multilateral cooperation in the unfolding context of additional talks. Yet, on March 10, it warned of China’s reaction to Seoul becoming the intermediary and signs that the power balance centered on the Korean Peninsula was beginning to shift. For Yomiuri, as on March 9, the stress was clearly on China feeling excluded from coming talks.

The shock in March of being left as a bystander on a matter vital to Japan rekindled memories of past “abandonment” and spurred calls for Japan to strive to regain an active role. On March 10 in Asahi, Yabunaka Mitoji urged Japanese diplomacy to quickly remedy the feeling left by the sudden development in US-North Korean relations, in which Seoul had won the trust of Washington. He noted that Moon Jae-in had studied Trump and made a point of giving the hard- line policy of Trump credit for the breakthroughs with Pyongyang. Yabunaka also recalls the situation in 1994 when Japanese diplomats could do no more than wait in the hotel lobby as US-North Korean bilateral talks occurred, leaving Japan to foot much of the bill for the light water reactors to be built. Now Seoul has put itself in the role of the bridge, and the benefits of Abe-Trump friendship do not suffice. Rather, Tokyo must press for a five-party foreign ministers’ meeting. There is room for it to play a role, insisting on full denuclearization, helping Washington with ideas.

An adjacent article by Lee Jong Won warned that the US concern is with North Korea’s ICBM, not satisfying Japan’s concern with medium-range missiles. Moreover, one can expect North Korea to expect South Korean economic ties, as Moon eagerly strives to boost North-South relations. In the March shock, the danger of Japan’s marginalization was being felt. Another Asahi article that day asserted that after the North-South talks had been announced, the Japanese government said that they would be inconsequential and that Washington shared the same concerns. However, as the United States agreed to US-North Korea talks, Japan was left isolated. Abe could now fear that his security build-up, including Aegis Ashore, would be left in doubt and that Trump, concerned first about freezing ICBM tests, is going to abandon him. With an unpredictable Trump, Abe has no way to predict what is coming, concludes the article.

On March 10, Tokyo Shimbun credited the news with achieving a great change from tension to dialogue but warned of the danger of dissonance about the parties as agreements are reached in the two summits with North Korea. While sanctions should not be easily lifted, no new ones should be imposed, and the North should realize that this is its last chance to resolve the issue. The editorial calls for Japan and the Koreas to sign an international treaty to be non-nuclear, while the United States, Russia, and China guarantee it. The North would have no reason to keep its nuclear weapons. The advice for Abe is to drop his position excessively reliant on pressure and finally to recognize that the North is changing. An Asahi editorial that day also urged Abe to be less critical of dialogue and to realize that one-sided focus on pressure does not suffice, while warning that Washington might only be thinking of its own security and that Trump is not ready for a comprehensive policy for the Korean Peninsula, while Pyongyang’s biggest success would be legitimizing itself as a nuclear power. The article called for patience in talks.

In Tokyo Shimbun on March 10, stress was placed on Trump’s self-confidence in making deals and on Japan’s nervousness about how fast events were proceeding, potentially marginalizing the abductees issue. While Seoul was not trusted, with even Asahi on March 6 warning of the high risk of its diplomacy and scant possibility that Pyongyang would give up its nuclear weapons, concerns about US-ROK relations failing to withstand the course of such talks now extended to worry about Trump, as his real nature drew closer attention.

The Japan-ROK-US Triangle

Mine Yoshiki in the January Sekai reviewed Trump’s November travel through Asia and Abe’s diplomacy. Mine found Moon a difficult partner for Trump, taking a softer line on both North Korea and China, while opposing Japan on both history and security in ways that make US East Asian strategy difficult to achieve. Although Moon, at the banquet he hosted, showcased his gap with Japan, Trump ignored it while taking satisfaction with the US arms Moon agreed to buy. As well as the visit went, Mine sees a dark cloud in the growing sense of danger among the Japanese people over being caught up in a war due to Trump’s North Korea policy and also his broader approach to security in East Asia. Another issue arose when Trump was in South Korea, when Moon emphasized peaceful resolution of the North Korean issue and opening the door to dialogue and Trump accepted this in the joint statement, changing the stress from what he and Abe had asserted.

In China too, Mine adds, the wording shifted to economic pressure rather than pressure in general. This raised concern in Japan that Trump is amenable to an approach that opens the door to a deal with Kim Jong-un, suspected from some of Trump’s past wording. Indeed, the China visit was the highlight: Trump stressed cooperation, receiving in return more support in pressuring North Korea. Abe’s hard line has been convenient for Trump, for negotiations on trade and for selling expensive weapons to Japan, and for Abe, who regards this as a way to build support for collective self-defense, strengthening security, and constitutional revision. The North Korean issue has been useful to his aims. Yet, Abe is opposed to military action before all peaceful means have been tried, and this may not be Trump’s intent, he adds, warning too that there is a Japan-US difference over history. Trump has revived the slogan, “remember Pearl Harbor.”

The decision to deploy THAAD was warmly received in Japan, but the diplomatic agreement with China at the end of October 2017 known as the “three noes” was harshly criticized. For South Koreans, Japan appears to support only a US-led alliance system, while frowning on an autonomous quest for self-defense and diplomatic leverage. Even when bilateral relations are on the upswing, images of Japanese distrust exacerbate fears of Japan’s military build-up being directed at a revival of militarism and an autonomous defense agenda. As long as either Seoul or Tokyo is recognized to be operating strictly within the confines of the US-led alliance, the other state is inclined to accept it, but US judgment is questioned in dealing with each other.

Many levels on the ladder of South Korea’s defense preparedness drew Japanese critiques. In response to growing South Korean interest in developing nuclear weapons, Japanese expressed their opposition, linking such views to the South’s growing hesitation to stick closely to the United States, an uncertain ally. Commenting on the South Korean reaction to Trump’s appeal for an “indo-Pacific” security framework, Japanese sources repeated longstanding accusations that leaders in Seoul were soft on China and unwilling to be part of the widening network to set limits on China’s expansionist behavior, as reflected in the “Quad,” which is conspicuously missing the country that often has characterized itself as the foremost US ally in Asia. The limits of South Korean interest in trilateral missile defense also raised doubts about the seriousness of the ROK response to North Korea, according to numerous Japanese publications.

On February 21, in Diamond online, Tanaka Hitoshi examined China’s policy on North Korea. He noted lots of uncertainties threatening security and offered hope that they can be overcome. The biggest uncertainty is if sanctions will lead North Korea to denuclearize or prod it to stay on course in nuclear and missile development. Many think that the fate of Qaddafi and Sadam Hussein has convinced the North to hold fast. Past sanctions have not been watertight, but now China and Russia are more supportive, and US secondary sanctions are beginning to have an effect on capital and energy. The North must feel it cannot go on without abandoning its nuclear weapons. The second uncertainty is Moon’s conciliatory policy toward the North and how the North will respond. An important point is whether joint military exercises will be resumed after the Olympics. Most uncertain is at what stage the United States will turn to military force. Recalling Pearl Harbor and 9/11, the United States will not overlook this new threat. That makes China the key to peaceful resolution, and its response is uncertain too. It fears loss of a buffer if North Korea cannot survive. It is unclear if China is prioritizing the nuclear issue.

Tanaka calls for a combination of pressure, coordination, and communication. For this he seeks four-way contingency planning with China and South Korea. Tanaka proceeds to raise questions about China’s future, asking if communist party control will be bolstered, and what this might mean for its foreign policy as well as social and economic freedom. If China turns to expansionism, Japan must oppose it with the US alliance and with ties to other democracies. In parallel, Japan should engage China, finding the right balance with its hedging while seeking a win-win outcome. This means not giving the wrong impression from the notion of the “Indo-Pacific” or the Quad is intended to contain China. Both countries should do what is needed for engagement. There is uncertainty from Trump over US policies. Since Abe has the closest relations in the world with Trump, he has a big responsibility.

Finally, there is, within the region, concern over where Japan’s nationalism is heading, as conservative forces strengthen and “hate China” sentiments rise with Japan’s “20 lost years” occurring as China surpassed it. In this time span, with Koizumi’s return from Pyongyang with hostages, Japanese have gone from seeing themselves as victimizers to feeling victimized, while under Trump, the United States is no longer a restraining force. Populism leads to exclusion and appeals for a strong government. In addition to hatred of North Korea, the reversal in South Korea on the “comfort women” leads to anti-Korean feelings. Now the constitutional revision movement will intensify suspicions against Japan in neighboring states, and to forestall that, an atmosphere of tolerance of diversity is needed in Japan with more checks on Abe: less bureaucratic centralization, more media criticism, and stronger opposition parties.

Japan-ROK Relations

Similar to Chinese and Russians, Japanese are often critical of South Korean attitudes toward security. They blame Seoul for wavering in its defense, leaning toward China when that is contrary to regional defense needs, and not doing enough to bolster alliance ties with the United States and with Japan, which is very much in Seoul’s national interest. Whether efforts to secure China’s cooperation on security or reluctance to advance trilateral security ties with the United States and Japan, South Korean policies are subject to persistent criticism. This has intensified under Moon following a year when Chinese and Russian critiques grew more vitriolic, creating an atmosphere where Seoul is being pummeled from each side even if the Chinese and Russians express some hope that Moon could be swayed to change direction through dialogue with them, and the Japanese hold out some hope that dialogue with the United States in the face of North Korean provocations could lead to more realistic policies for the defense of South Korea. If reservations about Seoul’s military choices have often been aired in Japan, approval for its toughening stand in 2016-17 toward North Korea and greater military build-up was unmistakable as was rising concern by late 2017 as Moon backtracked his steps.

On February 28, Sankei News blamed South Korea not only for breaking the “comfort women” agreement but for continuously raising the issue before international bodies. This is labeled as an attack against Japan and a blow to their essential cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles. Japanese officials rightly call this, including using the term “sex slaves” unacceptable. This is shameful anti-Japanese activity, breaking a promise and damaging the international order. Japanese have, at times, been ill disposed to South Korea’s military build-up, seeing it aimed at their country as well as at North Korea. The persistence of the territorial dispute over Dokdo/Takeshima has contributed to this distrust, but so too has the impression of wide differences in foreign policy strategy. On the one hand, Japanese publications support closer military ties in the trilateral US-Japan-ROK framework with a more pronounced ROK role. On the other, they are suspicious of ROK intentions in regard to China and, sometimes, North Korea, and they view naval build-ups in certain ways as directed at their own country. Optimism in the late 1990s gave way to skepticism in the Roh Moo-hyun era, and again optimism in the early Lee Myung-bak years degenerated into pessimism in 2012 to 2015. The state of Japan-ROK relations exerts major impact as does the balance between ROK-US and ROK-Chinese ties.

On February 26, Yahoo Japan reported on the meeting that day of Moon and China’s vice premier Liu Yandong, where they agreed on the need for early US-North Korea dialogue and on the big change that had occurred in the atmosphere for North-South dialogue due to the exchanges of the Winter Olympics, as Moon appealed for the US position to soften and for the North to show a will for denuclearization. The two would each try to persuade Washington and Pyongyang to engage in dialogue. They also discussed the centennial in 2019 of the founding in Shanghai of the movement for the independence of Korea and the ongoing construction in Chungqing of a memorial, where the anti-Japan movement was headquartered.

Blaming Japanese for their “hate speech” toward Koreans, Tokyo Shimbun on December 17 charged that over a long period Koreans have been denigrated, reporting on a new book by Ikeuchi Satoshi. This was an exception in the prevailing Japanese coverage of related issues. In an article in the March Sekai, Kawakami Shiro disagreed with the Japanese government and the 83 percent of respondents who support its refusal to countenance change in the “comfort women” deal, as demanded in Seoul. She insists that only government can take responsibility for this behavior, as South Koreans demand, and the victims must be given solace directly.

In the March Bungei Shunju, Kimura Kan offered an explanation for Moon’s breaking the agreement on the “comfort women” issue, arguing that righteousness trumps law. He cites “South Korean fatigue” in Japan, even among those who sympathize on this issue. The cause of putting law second is determined to be the way direct democracy has unfolded, leading people to follow what is seen as “correct” and extreme idealism. Counterarguments have trouble being heard. Repressive military governments discredited law with their claims. It is not only with Japan that Seoul moves the goalposts, readers are told. In contrast, even if the law is seen as bad, Japanese will follow it until it has changed. while both Japan and South Korea are democratic, they differ in how that concept is applied. Other examples of populist versions of democracy are the UK with Brexit and Trump’s US shift on globalization. The article proceeds to question the assumption in Seoul that the “comfort women” agreement was favorable to Japan, claiming that this is due to long-standing insistence that Japanese government take legal responsibility for reparations, which was abandoned in the deal. For Japan, agreeing to this would be at odds with the normalization treaty of 1965, opening up further problems. Besides, by essentially supplementing its 1995 creation of the Asian women’s fund and reiterating words of understanding from the 1990s, Japan did benefit by getting closure from the Korean side. Also, Park did this with virtually no consultations with the progressive side and under heavy US pressure, building after Abe visited Yasukuni at the end of 2013 and leading to the view that Abe would have to be forthcoming.

Of importance was Park’s shift toward China, raising questions about whose side she was on as Sino-US competition intensified, exacerbated when she attended the Beijing victory parade. So, Park acceded to US pressure and made the agreement. As the mood intensified during the course of impeachment that righteousness must be pursued in place of the bad Park had done, Moon used this agreement as a symbol. Yet, shocking to the left was the fact that 34 of the 47 surviving women had accepted Japan’s money. When 61 women in 1995 had accepted Japan’s earlier offer of money, they were subject to severe bashing at home, but not this time. Moon of all Korean presidents places the lowest value on relations with Japan. He has not visited, and his ambassador lacks ties to Japan. Park did not visit but was more serious about Japan. Indeed, the article not only puts Japan well below China as well as the United States, but it asserts that, given Russia’s weight in the North Korea issue, Russia too has more importance. Moon has no expectation of improved relations. Seoul and Tokyo have less need for each other. The main fear in Seoul, one reads, is that Tokyo with closer ties to Washington will play a role in worsening US-ROK ties.

Voice in its March issue carried an article by Sakurai Yoshiko and Hon Byon, which was critical of Moon and his new approach to the “comfort women” issue, seen as deleterious to bilateral relations. Moon’s ideology is blamed, ignoring historical facts such as that most “comfort women” were Japanese and that these were not sex slaves forced by Japan’s military. Yet attacking Japan uplifts self-confidence, while embracing North Korea at the Olympics is a legacy of socialist thought unfitting to a free society. At a time of a new cold war, Seoul is not on board, perhaps related to huge chaebol not facing a capitalist environment. The article charges that Koreans are opposed to western civilization in political correctness influenced by socialism. Further, it charges that China is using South Korea to denigrate Japan’s international position and revive a Confucian order in which the South is subordinate to China. Implied is the message that for the sake of the US-led order, Seoul has to accept Japan as is and abandon its criticisms of historical issues.

In an Asahi editorial on March 5, the Moon March 1 speech—his first—is treated as unusual for setting aside North Korea in order to concentrate criticism on the historical issue with Japan as well as the independence movement. The history of Takeshima is aggression against Korea, and one cannot end criticism of Japan as a victimizer over the “comfort women.” Asahi accepts the reality of Japan’s having caused great suffering in Asia, but it warns against excess nationalism that can enflame public opinion and influence foreign policy. Moon is courting this danger, as is his North Korea policy. In 2019, the 100th anniversary of the March 1 movement will occur, and Moon should appeal for a calm public response. It is natural that the Japanese government seeks adherence to the 2015 agreement, but that should not shut down debate on history questions. Care should be taken by both Tokyo and Seoul to manage history questions not to needlessly arouse neighboring countries is the concluding advice offered in the article.  

On Moon Jae-in’s March 1 speech, Yomiuri Online the next day worried about the “anti-Japan” stance of his leftist regime, symbolized by the site chosen, where Japan had held prisoners. Not only was there alarm expressed about Moon’s treatment of the “comfort women” issue, which the paper regards as a distortion for calling it a “war crime” and as a broken inter-governmental promise, Yomiuri pushes back hard on the words spoken about the illegally occupied Takeshima Island. As for Moon’s conciliatory remarks about North Korea, the paper asserts that this leads to a more negative response of South Korean conservatives. It warns of a need be on guard for an anti-Japan campaign conducted in parallel by North and South Korea. This is apparently a means to further their rapprochement, finding a common enemy to boost their closeness. 

A March 2 Yomiuri article blamed Moon’s March 1 speech on leftist and anti-Japanese views, lacking an intention to build constructive relations. It warned in the new diplomatic setting of North and South Korea joining in an anti-Japan campaign. In covering Moon’s speech, the paper also stressed the importance of promises in Japan-US-ROK relations, charging that when they are broken, trust is gone. Thus, Japanese lack of trust in Moon’s North Korea diplomacy seemed to be linked to Moon’s criticisms over history. With Pyongyang intent on breaking the trilateral accord, Japanese officials showed their distrust, as reported in Yomiuri on March 6, reminding Seoul of the need to heed the lessons of previous diplomacy with Pyongyang. Even Asahi stated on March 7 that the North- South rapprochement raised both expectations and unease. After spending much of February warning that Seoul was endangering containment of North Korea with its approval of “smile diplomacy,” Yomiuri doubled down in March, as in an editorial on March 8, with stress on maintaining maximum pressure and insistence that North-South talks are meaningless for denuclearization. Suga’s warning about learning the lessons from past talks was widely repeated, especially in Sankei and Yomiuri, as new talks were just over the horizon. The juxtaposition of Moon’s March 1 speech and new diplomacy dealt a double blow to Japan.

#“smile diplomacy” #comfort women #Dokdo/Takeshima #Pyeongchang Olympics #Six-Party Talks #Yasukuni