An Analysis of the Factors which have Contributed to Historical Reconciliation between Japan and the Korean Peninsula since the End of the Cold War
This paper analyzes post-Cold War diplomatic changes in East Asia, in a period when historical reconciliation advanced among the relevant states through the “Japan–South Korea Joint Declaration of 1998” and the “Japan–North Korea Pyongyang Declaration”. These two declarations were turning-points in the process of settling outstanding issues related to past traumatic events between Japan and the Korean peninsula. Japan and South Korea adopted the former declaration, as both countries recognized the necessity and benefits of strategic cooperation to promote regionalism in East Asia. The Kim Dae-jung administration required financial support from Japan in order to proceed with the Sunshine Policy (the South Korean policy of engagement with North Korea) and to deal with the Asian financial crisis. Japan, meanwhile, made further progress toward reconciliation through the “1997 Guidelines” and through legislation dealing with military emergencies in the event of a Korean crisis. Developing trilateral security cooperation was an important factor in achieving progress for Japan, South Korea, and the U.S., but it was felt it would especially enhance the Japan-U.S. alliance. Prime minister Obuchi’s expression of remorse and his heartfelt apology for Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, and his clear naming of the South Korean state in a diplomatic statement for the first time, were also instrumental in advancing the process of historical reconciliation. On the North Korean side, the Sunshine Policy of rapprochement, the increased perception of a U.S. threat, and domestic economic reforms became factors in closing the gap between the interests of Japan and North Korea. The Kim Dae-jung administration assisted the Japanese in furthering proactive diplomatic negotiations with North Korea, a radical departure from the stance of previous administrations which demanded that the Japanese adhere to the theory of “North-South equilibrium”. After 9.11, North Korea recognized a higher level of threat from the U.S., which at that time justified pre-emptive attacks on enemy countries which had weapons of mass destruction. In addition, North Korea urgently needed a massive inflow of foreign capital in order to reform its economy on a large scale. These factors contributed to North Korea’s involvement in the later declaration, which promoted a form of economic cooperation between Japan and North Korea. Rather than employing the traditional approach of “diplomatic normalization first, the abduction issue last,” the two countries chose the approach of reaching a “comprehensive solution,” which encompassed the resolution of historical issues.