Country Reports

In early spring Japanese media noted the upcoming transition to the Reiwa era on May 1, the plan for Donald Trump to come in late May for a state visit and the first official meeting of a foreign leader with the new emperor, and hoopla over the G20 summit in Osaka a month later. In the distance loomed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. While the expectations for an Abe-Putin meeting in the shadows of the G20 had been lowered and no date had been set for Xi Jinping’s expected return-visit following Abe’s October trip to China, the fact that Trump had held the line at the Hanoi summit in late February led to a sigh of relief. Yet, two lingering challenges cast a dark cloud: the deterioration of Japan-South Korea relations and the uncertainties over trade and security in the triangular context of Japan, the US, and China—particularly in light of the prolonged talks to avert a Sino-US trade war, the alarm about Trump pressuring Abe over trade as bilateral talks loomed, and the concern about Sino-US security tensions, whether over the South China Sea or Taiwan. This country report concentrates exclusively on the challenge of South Korea. It has become such a center of attention in Japan that it warrants its own intensive examination.

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