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Politics

South Korea fears isolation as Japan bonds with US

Worries surface amid frayed Seoul-Tokyo relations

SEOUL -- South Korea is feeling increasingly isolated in the diplomatic arena following a two-day summit between the Japanese and American leaders that deepened the bilateral alliance.

In a joint statement after North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile last weekend, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was visiting the U.S., stressed that the two countries would "further reinforce [their] alliance." President Donald Trump responded by saying that "the United States of America stands behind Japan ... 100%." Neither made any reference to South Korea.

Abe has now met with Trump twice since the U.S. election. But with South Korean President Park Geun-hye impeached and suspended from the office, Prime Minister and acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn has only spoken with Trump once by phone. After the U.S.-Japan summit, the conservative-leaning Chosun Ilbo newspaper printed an editorial with a headline saying the two countries were staging a "honeymoon" while leaving South Korea out in the cold.

South Korea would suffer the consequences if the U.S. decided to launch a preemptive strike against North Korean nuclear and missile facilities without consulting allies, said an opposition party lawmaker in Seoul, voicing fears at a parliament meeting Tuesday.

Relations with Tokyo remain frosty, as Seoul has yet to make plans for removing a statue symbolizing wartime "comfort women" outside the Japanese Consulate in the city of Busan. Japan pulled its ambassador out of the country over the issue. Some worry that Trump, having already heard Tokyo's side on the statue problem and the countries' frayed relations, could aim harsh demands at Seoul. 

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