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Analysis: South Korea's resolute response to North Korea appears to be assisting Japan's military push

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English -  Analysts think that South Korea's stronger approach toward the North under its new conservative pres...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English -  Analysts think that South Korea's stronger approach toward the North under its new conservative president will be welcomed by Tokyo, which is seeking to strengthen its military capabilities in the face of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula and across the region.

In response to a volley of short-range ballistic missiles launched by North Korea on Sunday, South Korea and the US fired missiles and performed a coordinated show of air power this week.

It was the second time since taking office in May that South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has made such a strong statement, promising to respond more aggressively if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ignores warnings about military provocations and offers of negotiation.

"The buildup of tension on the Korean peninsula, North Korea's acts, and our response to that, as we saw," said Kim Dong-yub of Seoul's Kyungnam University

Signs According to Kim, a former South Korean Navy officer, North Korea is preparing for another nuclear test, and the restart of joint South Korean-US military drills will help Japan legitimize its ambition of becoming a normal military state.

For decades, Japan has adhered to a strategy of keeping defense spending below 1% of gross domestic product, assuaging fears of a return to the militarism that drove the country into WWII.

However, during US President Joe Biden's recent visit to Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized Tokyo's determination to assume a more muscular defense posture, which Washington has long praised as a necessary balance to an increasingly aggressive and militarily competent China.

Japan announced this week that it plans to expand defense spending dramatically "over the next five years."

"Japan would back the Yoon government's tougher response to North Korean provocations, not only to dissuade the Kim dictatorship, but also to maintain a regional order already under threat from China," said Leif-Eric Easley, an international studies professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

Kishida's administration is expected to commit Japan to acquiring missiles and other equipment to allow it to strike enemy bases in a national security strategy update due by the end of the year, a capability critics say puts Japan outside the bounds of a pacifist constitution that prohibits it from fighting.

'CHERRY ON TOP' is a phrase that means "cherry on top."

The adjustment in Seoul's stance comes as Japan and South Korea attempt to repair relations that have been plagued by disagreements arising from the Korean War and Japan's colonization of the peninsula.

Yoon stated that he hoped to meet Kishida soon and collaborate with him to strengthen connections.

While Japan's stronger defense posture is earning public support, better relations with Seoul are a plus, according to Corey Wallace, a Japanese politics and security researcher at Kanagawa University.

"In ways that the menace of China never did, the crisis in Ukraine has galvanized public support for defense spending. Tokyo sees an opportunity to open a door that had previously been closed "Wallace remarked.

"Improved relations with Seoul are the icing on the cake."

According to a poll conducted on June 5 by Nippon Television Network and Yomiuri Newspaper, 72 percent of Japanese support stronger military defense, and more than half want Japan to increase defense spending. According to other recent polls, most people believe Yoon would improve relations with South Korea.

Experts believe that a stronger unified defense posture between South Korea and the US towards North Korea will enable Japan focus more on keeping China in check.

"In theory, instead of checking China, Japan might devote more of its military resources and new spending to bolstering its military presence in its southwest maritime domain," Wallace said.

"However, providing Japan with that level of comfort would necessitate years of good relations between Seoul and Tokyo."

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