US Caroline Kennedy is hoping for a thaw in icy relations between Japan and South Korea, saying it would be in “everyone’s interest” if the two nations put aside their territorial and historical issues and mend ties.
Speaking to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, Kennedy called on Tokyo and Seoul to take the lead in improving fraught relations adding that the US will do whatever it can to help defuse tensions between its “two closes allies in the region.”
“I think that the two countries really should and will take a lead in this process, and the United States, being a close ally of both of them, is happy to help in any way that we can,” Kennedy said in an interview with NHK, her first since becoming ambassador in November.
“The three countries can work together, will work together, and I think these good relations are in everyone’s interest.”
Kennedy said she was confident the two sides could make enough progress in time for US President Barack Obama’s Asian tour in April.
“I’m sure that President Obama will be very, very happy with the progress that they will make,” she assured.
Japan’s relations with neighboring South Korea and China have taken a dive amid blistering territorial disputes. Tensions hiked in December when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial built to honor the war dead, including war criminals, prompting fierce protests from Seoul and Beijing.
Remarks about wartime behavior made by top Japanese officials stoked outrage, which both nations said speaks volumes about Japan’s failure to acknowledge its aggression during World War II.
Kennedy has praised Abe as a “stable, strong leader” and a “wonderful partner” for the US. However, she reiterated the US’ stance on Abe’s visit to Yasukuni shrine, saying that any actions that “make the regional climate more difficult” were disappointing.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image of Ambassador Kennedy shaking hands with Ryota Takeda, Japan Parliamentary Senior Vice Minister of Defense: #PACOM/Flickr