by Bruce Klingner
The Heritage Foundation
February 19, 2014
President Obama correctly decided to include South Korea on his Asia trip itinerary in April. Seoul and Tokyo are again embroiled in a flare-up of tensions over sensitive historical issues that risk undermining U.S. security interests in Asia. Had Obama traveled only to Japan, as originally planned, South Korea would have interpreted it as the U.S. condoning Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s flawed revisionist interpretation of Japan’s wartime actions. There is a growing consensus in Washington that the U.S. needs to take a more active role in ameliorating the tensions between Seoul and Tokyo. The U.S., however, remains wary of assuming a mediator role given the dangers of being perceived as taking sides. Yet, without U.S. shuttle diplomacy between its allies, continued tensions among the U.S., Japan, and South Korea could degrade allied responses to a range of regional security crises.

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