Comfort women deal will not aid Tokyo

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-12-29 0:58:01

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida announced Monday they reached an agreement after negotiations to settle the issue of "comfort women" who were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese military during WWII. Japan will offer 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) to a South Korean fund to help the Korean victims. Seoul says it will consider the matter resolved "finally and irreversibly" if Japan sticks to its side of the deal.

The "comfort women" have been the focal point of historical issue contention between South Korea and Japan. It has also repeatedly led to diplomatic frictions. Analysts believe the US played a key role in pushing forward the deal.

Advocacy groups in South Korea for comfort women strongly reprimanded the deal, indicating that it will still take time to completely resolve the thorny issue between the two countries. However, the agreement offers reasons for the South Korean government to close a sour chapter in its ties with Japan, which makes it possible for their relationship to move to a new phase. 

There has been speculation about the US' strategic considerations behind the comfort women deal. If Tokyo and Seoul can settle the issue, there will be less ground for a joint confrontation against Japan by China and South Korea, and therefore Japan can gather up its strength to compete with China. Such analysis is not unreasonable, but exaggerates the strategic significance of the deal. As the victim, China has been taking the initiative to resist Japan's denials of its history of aggression. South Korea is not a key factor in the Sino-Japanese relationship. There is no need to oppose reconciliation between Japan and South Korea over the comfort women issue.  It will not bring major strategic change surrounding South Korea.

The comfort women deal doesn't mean the South Korean society has endorsed the attitude of the Japanese government over history, and it in no way impairs the legitimacy of China's demand for Japan to introspect on the history of aggression. China has risen to be the largest power in East Asia, and it has to endure the pressure this status imposes on it. The comfort women deal has little influence on Northeast Asia. Japan's easing of tensions with South Korea doesn't mean it will gain more leverage in dealing with China.

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