Thursday, November 5, 2015

Korea-Japan: it ain't necessarily thaw

As far as diplomacy goes, last Sunday's summit in Seoul between Korea, China, and Japan appears to be more about tactics and communication than about strategy and issues.

Yes, trilateral summits are back, and in a more formal manner than last year's distant encounter of the third kind between Barack Obama, Shinzo Abe, and Park Geun-hye in The Hague (see "The Tripartite Summitulacra"). But that 56-point joint declaration* is pointless.

And fundamentally, nothing changes. And body language keeps betraying clear rifts, like on this Yonhap picture where Shinzo Abe struggles to get the attention of a Park Geun-hye - Li Keqiang couple that makes good eye contact, but where Korea is eager for more affection from a China obviously calling the shots.

China's top man is not even on the picture, because this non-event is not at Xi Jinping's level, even if he does go well with Park, and even if he warmed up a bit with Abe recently. That last bit was actually one of the countless reasons why Park was forced to accept a summit with Abe. In order for her to save face, it had to happen in Seoul, and with the alibi of a trilateral moment, and with a promise that some progress would be made regarding the 'Comfort Women' issue. 

As if Park were the one who reconciled everybody! As if Abe intended to make any move in favor of the victims of Imperial Japan's sexual slavery system! As soon as he came back to Japan, the revisionist PM naturally confirmed that no agreement would happen during the proposed time frame**. Abe will play the next summit on his home turf, and will as usual, as we frogs say, "try to drown the fish".

No one is fooled: Shinzo Abe has claimed back his respectability, and effortlessly gained a lot of time, and Korea can only contemplate the time and opportunities wasted over the past months. When you think that Park's main concern, ahead of the summit, was to push if favor of an old Abe dream, state-issued history textbooks, instead of showing the example by leading a long overdue truth and reconciliation movement (see "Yet Another Textbook Textbook Controversy")...

Otherwise, The Middle Kingdom confirms its posture as the hyperpower guaranteeing peace and stability in the region. You can easily guess why the US didn't win the day...

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* see "Full text of joint declaration of trilateral summit" (Yonhap - 20151104)
** see "Comfort women agreement with South Korea not likely by year-end: Abe" (Japan Times - 20151102)

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