Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
What next on Iran’s nuclear deal: follow the news here

China, Japan and South Korea leadership changes offer fresh start for East Asia

Near-simultaneous leadership changes in China, Japan and South Korea offer East Asia a fresh start after a period of tension, despite the hawkish pedigree of those coming to power.

TOKYO // Near-simultaneous leadership changes in China, Japan and South Korea offer East Asia a fresh start after a period of tension, say analysts, despite the hawkish pedigree of those coming to power.

After elections in Tokyo and Seoul this week and with Beijing's leadership tussles resolved by last month's Communist Party conference, the region's three biggest economies could be over a hump.

All three new leaders have less incentive to play to their galleries freeing them to be more pragmatic in their dealings abroad, said Zhou Weihong, a Japan specialist at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

"Relations should generally turn better," he said. "[It is likely there] will be more room for cooperation between China, Japan and South Korea."

All three leaders face problems from the stumbling world economy and the successful launch of a North Korean rocket last week only added to regional uncertainty.

Japan's presumptive prime minister, Shinzo Abe, spent much of his campaign talking tough on China and proclaimed after his victory there could be "no negotiation" over the sovereignty of islands that both sides claim. The spat blistered in September when Tokyo nationalised the chain.

China sent government boats into the archipelago's territorial waters almost every day until Sunday's polls, and upped the ante last week with a fly-past, in what Japan said was the first Chinese breach of its airspace since at least 1958.

But Tokyo's coastguard has not reported any Chinese ships in immediate waters since the vote.

Tokyo's relations with Seoul had been on the up; they had a currency swap in place; enjoyed cultural exchanges; and had come close to signing an intelligence-sharing deal.

But things fell apart after Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean president, opened old wounds over disputed islands. Accusations followed that Tokyo was not sorry enough for its wartime behaviour and demands to compensate women forced into sexual slavery.

The election on Wednesday of the conservative Park Geun-hye, the daughter of the former military ruler, Park Chung-hee, marked an opportunity to get ties back on track, said the Korea University professor Lee Nae-young.

He said Ms Park's father worked with Mr Abe's grandfather, the former prime minister Nobusuke Kishi, who was arrested, though never charged, for war crimes, to normalise bilateral diplomatic relations in 1965.

"Like her father, who had strengthened ties with the US and Japan, president-elect Park Geun-hye is expected to seek better relations with the two allies," Prof Lee said.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National