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Asia Minute: Asia Intelligence Move Catches Washington by Surprise

State Department photo/ Public Domain
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a joint press availability with Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, in Seoul, Republic of Korea, June 14, 2018.

The United States is expressing concern about the downward spiral in relations between two of its closest allies in the Asia Pacific. It’s been another week of disputes involving Japan and South Korea — and the concerns are stretching all the way to Hawaii.

A split between Japan and South Korea involves history, politics, business, and now regional security. South Korea has pulled out of an intelligence sharing agreement with Japan — apparently catching officials in Washington by surprise.

The Pentagon’s point person on security in the region said the action will have “a negative effect” . . . “on U.S. security interests and those of other friends and allies.” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randy Schriver added, “I would emphasize the only winners in the Japan and Korea feud are our competitors.”

For its part, Japan this week removed South Korea from a list of preferential trade partners. The latest round of deteriorating relations between Tokyo and Seoul started last year when South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered Japanese companies to pay damages for forced Korean labor used during the Second World War.  

Japan maintains that issue was resolved when the two countries normalized relations in 1965.

As for the United States, there is growing concern, caution at Indo-Pacific Command in Hawai’i, and frustration in Washington.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon official said, “we need each side to stop doing things that contribute to more tensions and start to develop the mindset of how are we . . . going to get out of this.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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