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Will Japan-South Korea relations drop into ‘ice age’?

(People's Daily Online)

16:51, August 27, 2012

On Aug. 22, the Japanese Foreign Minister said that the Japanese Prime Minister had ordered preparations should be made to bring the dispute over the islets, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea to the International Court of Justice. Therefore, the Japanese ambassador Masatoshi Muto would be sent back to Seoul on Aug. 22 after returning to Japan for protesting Lee Myung-bak’s high-profile visit to the disputed islets.

Analysts believe that Japan's counteractions against Lee's landing on the island will have limited effects. The territorial conflicts are still intensifying. In the short run, it will exert negative effects on the economic and trade cooperation between two countries. In the long run, it will cast a shadow over two countries' political and military relations and people's emotions with each other.

In December, South Korea will carry out the presidential election in which the policy towards Japan will be the focus of debates. The action taken by Lee will increase the possibility that the next South Korean President holds an even tougher stance on Japan, making the Japan-South Korea relations drop into the “ice age.”

On Aug. 22, the Japanese Foreign Minister described South Korea's control over the islets as an "illegal occupation". It has been the first time that a senior Japanese government official uses tough words on the issue since the Democratic Party of Japan took office.

According to Japanese media, the Japanese government currently is striking a balance between pressure on South Korea and improvement of bilateral relations. It should not only give an explanation to the Japanese public but also ease the anger of people in South Korea so that the relations between two countries will not be severely damaged.

Therefore, “temporary return” is used to describe the Japanese ambassador’s return to Japan instead of “recalling” in diplomatic sense. Although Japan suspends the intergovernmental conference the “shuttle diplomacy” between heads of two countries is still maintained. Besides, the Japanese Defense Minister did not attend the meeting over the disputed islets, in order to avoid further irritating the South Korean media which are very sensitive to the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

According to experts, South Korea has reduced its dependence on the Japanese market in recent years. Therefore, some counteractions of Japan will hardly achieve expected effects.

In Japan, some far-sighted people generally call on the government to take rational measures and deal with the current territorial disputes with sufficient diplomatic wisdom and patience.

Read the Chinese version: 领土之争严重影响日韩关系, source: Xinhua, author: Guo Yina

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