S. Korea regains old embassy in US, snipes at Japan
WASHINGTON (AP) - A grand, aging red-brick house in Washington concealed by a pair of towering magnolia trees has become an unlikely setting for South Korea's festering grievances against Japan and a sign of growing tensions between two staunch United States (US) allies.
More than a century ago, the building housed the first Korean diplomatic mission in the US. But shortly before annexing Korea in 1910, imperial Japan bought it for a nominal US$5 (S$6.14) fee then sold it off. Now South Korea has reacquired it for US$3.5 million (S$4.3 million) and plans to use the building to showcase its history - a jab at modern-day Japan.
South Korean Embassy spokesman Choi Byung Goo said the sale of the legation building 102 years ago was forced and "symbolically demonstrates imperial Japan's plunder." The Japanese Embassy said it would refrain from commenting on the purchase, as South Korea has not conveyed its position or raised the issue with Japan.
The Japanese occupation of Korea ended with the fascist defeat in World War II, and nowadays the two nations have many reasons to get along. Both are well-established and prosperous democracies that share US-supported interests in countering the nuclear threat of North Korea and managing China's rise as the region's superpower. The US, which has tens of thousands of troops in both countries, is keen to promote Japan-South Korea ties, to help sustain American influence in the region.