Why is North Korea angry with Japan

Moon Jae-in only has one year left. South Korea's constitution does not allow the president to have a second term. Another will be elected to the Blue House in Seoul next spring. That's why Moon gave a kind of countdown speech last week for the fourth anniversary in office. It was about what else he wants to tackle. He called the end of the corona crisis and economic recovery, but also his heartfelt topic: reconciliation with North Korea. "I see the remaining year as the last opportunity to move from an imperfect peace to an irreversible one."

He wants to end the state of war that has officially been in effect since the end of the Korean War in 1953 due to the lack of a valid peace treaty. And Moon made it clear what could be a decisive step on this path: his meeting with US President Joe Biden this Friday.

Moon Jae-ins's visit to Washington is an important event in connection with the major security issues facing East Asia. Biden meets a complicated partner in the search for a strategy against the Chinese drive for power and North Korean nuclear weapons. His fellow campaigners are important to his government team, which became clear immediately after Biden's inauguration in January.

Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made their first business trips to Tokyo and Seoul. In March, Biden used the long-neglected Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) to exchange ideas online with his counterparts from Japan, Australia and India. Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was the first head of government Biden received at the White House in April. So now comes Moon Jae-in.

Biden wants to close the ranks of allies. But despite the security treaty with the USA, Moon Jae-in cannot simply follow every American idea. He is different from Japan's Prime Minister Suga. Its right-wing conservative government is constantly worried about North Korea's nuclear arsenal and is fighting with China over the Senkaku Islands in the China Sea. When it comes to North Korea and China, Japan is always ready to talk. The more liberal Moon from the Democratic Party of Korea is also always ready to talk. But he just has to be more considerate.

The president is himself the son of North Korean refugees

China is South Korea's most important trading partner and has already bitterly punished the tiger state. In 2016, Moon's conservative predecessor Park Geun-hye left the US missile defense system THAAD Install to protect against North Korean attacks. China's government found this threatening and responded with unofficial economic sanctions. Moon's people laboriously reconciled China with the so-called "three no's": no to more THAAD-Batteries. No to participating in a regional anti-missile system under US command. No to a military alliance with Japan and the USA. These no's hardly affect South Korea - but it makes some things difficult. For example, participation in the quad round, which China perceives as an opposing alliance.

Moon is similarly cautious about North Korea. Moon, 68, is the son of North Korean refugees. He was once a senior government official under President Roh Moo-hyun, who continued the so-called sunshine policy of his predecessor Kim Dae-jung to draw closer to North Korea. Unlike South Korea's conservatives, who view the communists in the north with frosty rejection, Moon strives for Korean unity, at least for Korean peace - even if he has to make concessions to a ruler like Kim Jong-un.

In 2018 he was successful. There were meetings between Kim and Moon, even agreements. South Korea brokered meetings between Biden's predecessor Donald Trump and Kim. Great optimists hoped for a trade in nuclear weapons against the economic sanctions of the United Nations. But the negotiations failed. The inter-Korean friendship was soon over, because Moon could not offer Kim the cooperation he would have liked because of the sanctions. Now Moon wants to repair the relationship - even if North Korea is closing itself off more than ever because of Corona and the US Democrat Biden wants a clear distance from anti-democratic rulers.

Biden doesn't want to go back to Obama's policy on Korea

The Americans care about South Korea's positions. There are no plans to expand the quad circuit, Kurt Campbell, Washington’s policy coordinator for the Indo-Pacific region, told the Yonhap news agency this week. The US’s North Korea policy is also new. There is no turning back to the strategic patience of Barack Obama, who insisted on isolation and sanctions and thus froze the Korean peace process. Instead, they want a "coordinated, practice-oriented approach that is open to diplomacy," said US government spokeswoman Jen Psaki recently. Campbell even says it will build on the agreement reached at the 2018 Kim-Trump Summit in Singapore "and on other agreements from previous administrations."

Good news for Moon. However, Campbell also emphasizes that expanding regional cooperation is important. And every North Korea concession will certainly not be possible with Biden. Moon will need all his diplomatic skills to get South Korea in the right position. The magazine calls it "tight rope dance" Nikkei his mission. If successful, his government can become a balancing force between China, North Korea, and the United States. If not, South Korea will lose confidence on all sides.