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The Japan-South Korea relationship also has been roiled by the issue of Korean “comfort women” who were sexually exploited by the Japanese in World War II. Mr. Abe late last month backed off a pledge to review a 1993 Japanese apology to South Korea over the sexual abuse.

The Japan-South Korea relationship holds the most promise for improvement, analysts said.

“From the U.S. perspective, having a strong U.S.-Japan-South Korea trilateral [relationship] is a necessity, and that has been heavily strained because of the territorial disputes and lingering mistrust over history,” said Randall Schriver, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs in the George W. Bush administration.

“The Abe administration and Miss Park have a chance to reset that relationship in a way that would be very beneficial to us.”

Ms. Park’s father, former dictator Park Chung-hee, normalized South Korea’s relationship with Japan and secured a Japanese loan that allowed South Korea to enter the steel industry and put it on the path to prosperity. Her father also shared a close relationship with Mr. Abe’s late grandfather, Kan Abe, who was a Japanese politician.

Mr. Abe has made an effort to send positive diplomatic signals to Seoul and Beijing. He sent envoys to China and has reached out to Ms. Park’s transition team.

Ms. Lee is not convinced the honeymoon will last.

“In Japan-South Korea relations, we have seen this cycle that when there is a new administration in place it starts off promising better relations, but after a while slides into diplomatic disputes over history,” she said. “I don’t think the Abe and Park administrations are particularly immune to this trend.”

South Korea’s ties with China deteriorated under Ms. Park’s predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Ms. Park, who wants strong ties with the United States, also has reached out to China. She is expected to strengthen the relationship with Beijing as a means to put pressure on China’s ally, North Korea.

While geography and history have driven a wedge between South Korea and Japan, the security threat posed by North Korea has brought them closer.

“The question is whether the circle can be expanded to include China,” said Mr. Bush of the Brookings Institution. “Does China conclude from the [North Korean] missile test and the nuclear test that its fairly indulgent strategy toward North Korea is a failure and it needs to tighten the screws a little bit?”

The U.N. Security Council is considering additional sanctions to punish North Korea for carrying out its third nuclear test Feb. 9. It slapped sanctions on Pyongyang in January for launching a long-range rocket in December.

During her election campaign, Miss Park said she would consider economic aid to North Korea on the condition that Pyongyang makes a commitment to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang’s nuclear test has dashed hopes of any near-term improvement of ties.

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