U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday that South Korea and Japan need to get along, as friction between the two countries has threatened to damage trilateral cooperation against North Korea's nuclear threats.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he is "concerned" about the recent deterioration of ties between the two U.S. allies.
He said the dispute over trade and shared history has put the U.S. in a "very difficult position."
"They have to get along with each other. If they don't get along, what are we doing?" Trump said. "It's very important. South Korea and Japan have to sit down and get along with each other."
Last month Trump said he had been asked by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to get involved and that he would be there if both Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe needed him.
Seoul and Tokyo have seen their relations deteriorate to their worst condition in decades since Japan adopted export curbs against South Korea in early July.
The move came in apparent retaliation for South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese firms to compensate Korean victims of wartime forced labor.
This month Japan also removed South Korea from a list of trusted trading partners, sparking an angry response from Seoul, which threatened to end a military information-sharing agreement with Tokyo.
"South Korea and Japan are fighting all the time," Trump said. "They've got to get along because it puts us in a very bad position."
Washington has said that while it stands ready to facilitate dialogue between its two allies, it will not mediate or arbitrate the dispute.
Following Japan's decision to delist South Korea, a U.S. State Department official said last week that Washington recommends the two countries "find the space for creative solutions."
"As an ally and friend to both the Republic of Korea and Japan, the United States believes it is critical to ensure strong and close relationships between and among our three countries in the face of our shared regional challenges, including those posed by the DPRK, as well as our other priorities in the Indo-Pacific and around the world," the official said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The official also warned that both countries suffer consequences when their bilateral ties worsen and that both sides are responsible for improving them.
"Some soul-searching is in order about political decisions that have damaged bilateral trust in recent months," the official said. "By the same token, prudence is required to prevent tensions from contaminating the economic and security aspects of Korea-Japan ties."
The top diplomats of the three countries also met in Bangkok last Friday on the sidelines of a regional security forum.
A different State Department official said the trilateral meeting went well, but a photo opportunity that followed the talks showed obvious tensions between the sides. (Yonhap)