South Korea, Japan to Further Improve Ties

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The leaders of South Korea and Japan met Sunday for their second summit in less than two months, as they push to mend long-running historical grievances and boost ties in the face of North Korea’s nuclear programme and other regional challenges. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in South Korea earlier Sunday for a two-day visit, which reciprocates a mid-March trip to Tokyo by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.

It was the first exchange of visits between the leaders of the Asian neighbors in 12 years.

South Korean media attention on the summit is focused on whether Kishida will make a more direct apology over Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. Such comments by Kishida would likely help Yoon win greater support for his push to build stronger ties with Japan and ease domestic criticism that he’s preemptively made concessions to Tokyo without receiving corresponding steps in return.

“It took 12 years to restore ‘the shuttle diplomacy’ but our exchange of visits took less than two months,” Yoon said at the start of the meeting. “I think this confirms that South Korean-Japan relations, which have started fresh, are moving forward with a speed.”

Yoon said cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo is essential considering “the current grave international political situation and the global polycrisis”.

He didn’t elaborate, but has previously cited North Korea’s advancing nuclear programme, the intensifying US-China strategic rivalry and global supply chain problems as reasons for greater cooperation with Japan.

Kishida said he and Yoon plan to exchange views to further develop bilateral relations. Kishida said that “a series of dialogues has dynamically started moving” since his summit with Yoon in March, during which he said the two leaders “wiped out somewhat shrunk mood to strengthen our dialogue and cooperation.”

South Korean and Japanese officials said their leaders would discuss North Korea’s nuclear programme, South Korean-Japanese economic security and overall relations, and other unspecified international issues.

Ahead of his summit with Yoon, Kishida and his wife, Yuko Kishida, visited the national cemetery in Seoul, where they burned incense and paid a silent tribute before a memorial. Buried or honored in the cemetery are mostly Korean War dead, but include Korean independence fighters during the period of Japanese rule. Kishida was the first Japanese leader to visit the place in 12 years.

In recent weeks, the two countries have also withdrawn the economic retaliatory steps they had earlier taken against each other in previous years. 

Source: The Star