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Japanese Politics, the Korean Peninsula, and China
Published June 8, 2012
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The year 2011 closed with several symbolic events in predicting Japan’s relations with the Korean peninsula. When President Lee Myung-bak held summit talks with Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko on December 17-18, contrary to some media anticipation in Japan, the meeting was dominated by the comfort women issue. Lee urged Noda “to have real courage in order to resolve the comfort women issue with high priority.”1 All of the December 19th morning newspapers were filled with the comfort women issue, but then at noon, North Korean television broadcast announced the death of Kim Jong-il and the succession of Kim Jong-un. All television and newspaper coverage from the evening of December 19th became dominated by this news, brushing aside the tense meeting between Noda and Lee. As if to symbolize the critical role which China might play on this issue, at the December 5, 2011 Japan-China summit in Beijing, other than issues centered on bilateral relations, the North Korean issue alone appears to have dominated the foreign policy agenda. The power succession in North Korea and its implications for the security situation in Northeast Asia have deep repercussions for Japanese politics toward the peninsula.

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