Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the keynote speaker that kicked off the annual International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore last week. The summit hosted discussions on topics such as conflict management, military-to-military cooperation, and the United States’ contribution to regional stability.
The summit also came a month after serious tensions erupted between China and Vietnam after China relocated one of its oil rigs to a location inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. This sparked outraged and a series of anti-China protests and riots in Vietnam.
This incident was just one of a string of intense Asia-Pacific conflicts that have arisen in the last year. On November 23rd, 2013 China imposed an air defense identification zone of the East China Sea, which included the disputed Senkaku-Diayu Islans claimed by Japan. The move was condemned by Japan and the United States, with the US sending a pair of unarmed B-52 bombers over the disputed islands.
Just recently, senior diplomats from Korea and Japan held a round of talks in Tokyo, on Japan’s sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II. Called the “comfort women” talk, Seoul’s foreign ministry said the two sides held an in-depth discussion on ways to resolve the issue. More than 200,000 women, most of them Korean, were forced to serve the Japanese military at comfort stations during the war.
Tokyo claimed the issue was settled through a 1965 treaty, but Seoul is demanding an official apology from Japan as well as legal compensation for the women.
Sean King, Vice President of Park Strategies spoke of the tensions on Primetime News. When asked by host Kang Chery if he gave much weight to the Korea-Japan talks on the issue of Comfort Women, Mr. King stated:
“I think Japan is just paying Seoul lip-service in this regard because President Obama has nudged Tokyo in this direction also because Japan want to get relations back on track with South Korea to counter challenges from China and North Korea; but I don’t expect Japan to really do anything because they consider this matter solved when relations were normalized in 1965 and if they were to give South Korea anything more on this they would open the door for China asking the same.”
Overall, tensions throughout Asia have increased, with all parties having difficulty bending. Time will tell if peace talks and continued negotiations will allow for any compromises in the future.