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In its foreign relations, South Korea is primarily concerned with North Korea and the neighboring countries of China, Japan, and Russia, as well as its main ally, the United States.The US was the primary driver in the establishment and initial sustenance of the South Korean government before the Korean War of 1950-1953; however, since the 1990s the two nations have often been at odds with regard to their policies towards North Korea, and over the rise of anti-American sentiment often expressed toward members of the U.S. military,sometimes violently.

South Korea and China established formal diplomatic relations on August 24, 1992, despite previous hostility dating back to the Korean War. South Korea and Japan signed the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea in 1965. However South Korea's relations with Japan continue to be turbulent due to a number of unsettled Korean-Japanese disputes, many of which stemmed from the period of Japanese occupation. During World War II, more than 100,000 Korean civilians were conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army as officers and soldiers. Longstanding issues such as Japanese war atrocities against Korean civilians, the visits by Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine honoring convicted war criminals, the re-writing of Japanese textbooks to overlook Japanese aggression during World War II, and the territorial disputes over the Liancourt islands (known as "Dokdo" in Korean, "Takeshima" in Japanese) continue to trouble Korean-Japanese relations. In response to then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni shrine, the President of South Korea Roh Moo-hyun suspended all summit talks between South Korea and Japan.

Both North and South Korea continue to officially claim sovereignty over the entire peninsula. Despite longstanding animosity following the Korean War in 1950 (which has still not officially ended), the South and North have in recent times sought to establish a more conciliatory relationship. Events such as family reunifications and the Olympic Games, where the two Koreas entered the opening ceremonies together but still competed as separate teams, promised a gradual thaw in the North-South relationship . However, the progress has been complicated by North Korean missile tests in 1993, 1998 and 2006.

In addition, South Korea maintains diplomatic relations with approximately 170 countries. The country has also been a member of the United Nations since 1991, when it joined at the same time as North Korea. On January 1, 2007, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon assumed the post of UN Secretary General. It has also developed links with ASEAN as both a member of "ASEAN Plus three" and the East Asia Summit (EAS).

Korea has recently reached free trading agreement with USA.

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