Often volatile South Korea-Japan ties have rarely before disrupted economic and security links to the extent seen in 2019. Amid a global slowdown and fallout from the U.S.-China trade war, the countries' $80 billion trade relationship has been hit by new rules and boycotts in sectors from electronics to beer. Tokyo imposing export controls on specialty chemicals needed for semiconductors hit the South Korea electronics sector hard.
Similarly, there was almost a dangerous rupture in the security relationship. The 11th-hour South Korean decision to suspend termination of the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, a crucial South Korea-Japan intelligence sharing accord, meant that Seoul benefited from early warning of a North Korean missile launch that it otherwise might have been blind to. The North Korean salvo was a reminder that the two U.S. allies face common security challenges.