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  • The two most important U.S. allies in Northeast Asia are engaged now in a damaging economic confrontation, haunted by a long and painful history.

  • Today, that confrontation between Japan and South Korea moved into the national and global security realm.

  • It was South Korea's turn today in an increasingly serious feud with Japan.

  • Seoul announced the end of a key intelligence-sharing deal.

  • KIM YOU-GEUN, South Korean Deputy Director of National Security.

  • (through translator) The government has determined that maintaining the agreement, which was signed for the purpose of exchanging sensitive military intelligence on security, doesn't serve our national interests.

  • The general security of military information agreement fostered direct intelligence communication between Japan and South Korea, including North Korean troop movements and missile activity.

  • But it also helped to anchor historically rocky relations between Tokyo and Seoul.

  • Those took a sharp turn for the worse this summer.

  • Japan increased limits on exports to South Korea, including on critical tech materials used by large Korean businesses like Samsung.

  • YOSHIHIDE SUGA, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary.

  • (through translator): It is not our intention to have this affect Japan-South Korea relations, nor is it a countermeasure against the country.

  • The recent economic fight sparked mass anti-Japan demonstrations in Seoul.

  • But the anger rns much deeper and is centuries' old.

  • Daniel Russel served as an American diplomat in Japan and South Korea and oversaw the Obama administration's negotiations that resulted in the intelligence-sharing agreement.

  • DANIEL RUSSEL, Senior Fellow, Asia Society: Talking to South Koreans or the Japanese, they'll quickly take you back to 1592, when the Shogun Hideyoshi invaded South Korea.

  • There is a long litany of grievances.

  • Particularly in the last three years, there has been steady series of events.

  • One slap is met by another slap between Seoul and Tokyo.

  • At the root, profound Korean national resentment of imperial Japan's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II.

  • In 2015, Japan met longstanding Korean demands for an official apology for the abuse of so-called comfort women in an agreement with Korea's former President Park Geun-Hye.

  • But President Moon Jae-in revoked that agreement when he came to power in 2016.

  • MOON JAE-IN, South Korean President (through translator): On the issue of comfort women, wartime crimes against humanity can't be swept under the rug by saying it's over.

  • Aging survivors still shaken by the trauma, continue to demand more from Japanese President Shinzo Abe.

  • KIM JEONG-JU, Former Forced Laborer.

  • (through translator): In Japan, I was so hungry that I had to eat grass from our dorm garden and my hair fell off.

  • I lived like a slave there, but Abe is saying like it was not.

  • Korea's younger generation demonstrated their outrage, too.

  • NOH MIN OCK, South Korean Student (through translator): They're still not owning up to the past, and instead of apologizing to the victims of forced labor, they are engaging in economic retaliation.

  • It makes me really angry.

  • All of this weakens a critical alliance for Washington, and military officials are concerned.

  • Marine Corps Commandant David Berger: GEN.

  • DAVID BERGER, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant: But, from a military perspective, it's important to be able to share information, because each country has information that the other ones will need.

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had this to say today

  • MIKE POMPEO, U.S. Secretary of State: We're disappointed to see the decision that the South Koreans made about that information-sharing agreement.

  • And we hope each of those two countries can begin to put that relationship back in exactly the right place.

  • But the uptick in tension could be a symptom of White House policies at a critical moment for the Korean Peninsula.

  • There have been series of actions and reactions that should have caused the Trump administration not to mediate, but to moderate, to remind both allies that we face a common danger from North Korea.

  • The risk to American citizens is vastly increased when there is a degradation in the networked security alliance, faced with a threat like North Korea.

The two most important U.S. allies in Northeast Asia are engaged now in a damaging economic confrontation, haunted by a long and painful history.

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