Japan's relationship with South Korea is not amicable at the best of times. Yet in recent months it has entered a rapidly descending diplomatic spiral of unprecedented depth and scope. Mounting bilateral friction over the intractable ‘history problems' is steadily bleeding into the economic and security realms of the relationship. The result is a bilateral trade war with potential repercussions for the global supply chain of high-tech devices.
On the surface, it appears that a series of contentious developments in their longstanding history problems drove Tokyo and Seoul to this crisis point. South Korean President Moon Jae-in reneged on a diplomatic accord in 2018 that was purported to ‘irreversibly' settle the ‘comfort women' issue. The South Korean judiciary is also growing increasingly incessant in demanding Japanese companies pay damages to the Koreans mobilised for wartime labour.