The bilateral relationship between Japan and South Korea is notoriously bad. In theory, they check all the boxes that political science and sociology tell us should predict a close friendship — consolidated democracies, complementary economies, a common love of both sushi and K-pop, and of course a shared great power ally. Yet only a few years ago they experienced a quasi-military crisis over a disputed island, the political leadership of each country has an icy relationship with the other, and they have proven incapable of engaging in meaningful bilateral cooperation.
But recent history suggests that poor bilateral relations and productive cooperation can go hand in hand under the right circumstances. For the United States, long wishing to convince Japan and South Korea to work together without arm-twisting, bribery, or mediation, the challenge is knowing when and how to intervene. The United States can be a bridge that helps connect Japan and South Korea, but it’ll require re-orienting how Washington views their relationship.
Read the full article at The Diplomat.