In April 2022, a South Korean delegation representing President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo to help reset bilateral ties that have frayed in recent years over unresolved issues like wartime forced labor and sexual slavery. The delegation head told reporters that the trip’s goal was to fasten “the first button of a new Korea-Japan relationship,” referring to the proverb that incorrectly fastening the first button on a jacket will cause subsequent ones to go astray.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are in Asia this week for their first official foreign trip. They held meetings in Japan and South Korea. Blinken returned to the United States via Alaska where he and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan meet with their Chinese counterparts today, while Austin is in India. On March 12, President Joe Biden and the leaders of Australia, India and Japan participated in a virtual summit of the “Quad,” a strategic dialogue between the four countries aimed at ensuring an open, free and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.
North Korea’s demolition this week of an inter-Korean liaison office that symbolized North-South cooperation marks a new spike in tensions between the countries, and in North Korean frustration with the United States. It was the latest in a string of inflammatory rhetoric and actions directed at Seoul and Washington since the failure of the February 2019 summit in Hanoi between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The building’s demolition renews strains over North Korea’s ongoing development of a nuclear weapons arsenal, the corresponding global sanctions against Pyongyang’s illicit behavior and the 67-year failure to formalize a peace treaty following the Korean War. USIP analysts Patricia Kim and Frank Aum discuss the latest downturn.