Korea, China Wary of US-Japan Military Pact

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A new defense pact between the United States and Japan that will give Tokyo’s forces a more ambitious global role provoked wary reactions from neighbors South Korea and China Tuesday.
Even though South Korea may stand to benefit from a stronger Japanese military presence to counter the North Korean threat and China’s rising power, officials remain reluctant because of lingering tensions over Tokyo’s wartime past.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok was non-committal when asked about the revised U.S.-Japan defense guidelines and what it meant for Seoul. Kim said South Korea’s participation in the agreement still needs to be worked out.
The guidelines allow for Japan to exercise “collective self-defense” to aid other countries in the region that come under attack. And they endorse a Japanese cabinet resolution last year expanding the military’s role by reinterpreting the country’s post-World War II pacifist constitution.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington has an “iron-clad” commitment to Japan’s security. He also said that commitment covered all islands under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku islands, which China claims as its own and calls the Diaoyu islands.
North Korea’s growing nuclear threat has been cited to justify the need for a stronger Japanese military. Japan has also voiced concern about what it has said is China’s growing assertiveness when it comes to its territorial claims and its military’s lack of transparency.
In a white paper on defense last year, Japan said Beijing’s assertiveness in the air and at sea is posing threats to regional stability, and highlighted China’s unilateral establishment of an air defense identification zone over a large part of the East China Sea including the Senkaku islands.
Beijing maintains that its rise is peaceful and has accused Japan of “deliberately exaggerating” what it calls the “China threat.” But Tokyo is not alone in raising its concerns about Beijing’s assertiveness.
China insists its territorial claims are based on historical fact and immutable, but its claims frequently are at odds with that of its neighbors. In the South China Sea, China claims most of the area is its sovereign territory, even parts that are well within neighboring countries’ exclusive economic zone.

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