Tokyo and Seoul hit the reset button on bilateral relationships as South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol met his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in Tokyo Thursday.
The 2 leaders promised to show the web page on years of animosity at a gathering, placing apart their troublesome, shared historical past and saying they wanted to work extra intently to counter regional safety challenges.
Their feedback at a summit in Tokyo spotlight how the 2 U.S. allies have been pushed nearer collectively by North Korea’s frequent missile launches, in addition to rising concern about China’s extra muscular function on the worldwide stage.
Yoon’s go to to Japan on Thursday was the primary for a South Korean president in 12 years. The urgency of the regional safety scenario – and the risk posed by North Korea – had been underscored within the hours earlier than his arrival, when the North fired a long-range ballistic missile that landed within the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan.
The 2 international locations additionally agreed to drop an nearly four-year commerce dispute on high-tech supplies used for chips, a difficulty that has dogged their relationship even because the political significance of semiconductors, and securing their provide, has elevated.
“This week Tokyo noticed its cherry blossom timber blooming slightly sooner than common. I am very joyful to have this chance to begin a brand new chapter of a forward-looking way forward for Japan and South Korea relations on this present day after we can really feel the arrival of spring,” Kishida mentioned as the 2 confronted one another throughout a desk.
The 2 mentioned they’d restart the beforehand halted “shuttle diplomacy” of standard chief visits between the international locations.
“At present’s assembly with Prime Minister Kishida has a particular which means of letting the folks of our two international locations know that South Korea-Japan relations, which have gone via troublesome instances as a consequence of varied pending points, are at a brand new place to begin,” Yoon mentioned.
He mentioned North Korea’s launch of a long-range ballistic missile that morning had proven the “grave risk” to worldwide peace and stability.
Japan will take away curbs on its exports to South Korea of essential supplies for smartphone shows and chips whereas Seoul will drop a World Commerce Group (WTO) grievance in opposition to Tokyo, officers from either side mentioned.
Tokyo imposed the curbs in 2019 as tensions over a decades-old row with Seoul deepened.
Yoon has mentioned that he expects to “invigorate” safety cooperation. The 2 leaders are getting ready to verify the restart of a bilateral safety dialogue which has been suspended since 2018, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.
The try for nearer ties introduced a rebuke from China, whose international ministry mentioned it opposed the try by sure international locations to type unique circles.
Skepticism at dwelling
Behind the scenes, Japanese officers have been cautious about bettering relations.
Yoon additionally faces skepticism at dwelling. In a ballot by Gallup Korea revealed Friday, 64% of respondents mentioned there was no have to rush to enhance ties with Japan if there was no change in its angle. Round 85% mentioned they thought the present Japanese authorities was not apologetic about Japan’s colonial historical past.
However, financial ties are robust. The 2 had been one another’s fourth-largest export markets in 2021, in response to the IMF. Japanese exports to South Korea totaled $52 billion, whereas South Korean exports totaled $30 billion, the information confirmed.
In a contemporary reminder of the long-running tensions, two South Korean victims of wartime pressured labor filed a lawsuit, searching for compensation from Japanese firm Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, their representatives mentioned Thursday.
Relations between the 2, long-strained over the wartime labor challenge in addition to over disputed islands, and Korean women and girls pressured to work in Japanese wartime brothels, made headway final week when Seoul introduced a plan for its corporations to compensate former pressured laborers. The victims who filed the lawsuit rejected that plan.
Japan’s largest enterprise foyer, Keidanren, mentioned it and its South Korean counterpart, the Federation of Korean Industries, agreed to launch foundations aimed toward “future-oriented” bilateral relations.
Park Hong-keun, ground chief of South Korea’s predominant opposition Democratic Occasion, mentioned Yoon’s go to shouldn’t cease at “his journey down reminiscence lane” and requested Yoon to earn a real apology and determination from Japan on pressured labor points throughout his journey.
Japan mentioned the “strategic problem posed by China is the most important Japan has ever confronted” in a protection technique paper launched in December. Tokyo worries that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has set a precedent that can encourage China to assault self-ruled Taiwan.
China’s coast guard entered waters round disputed East China Sea islets on Wednesday to counter what it referred to as the incursion of Japanese vessels into Chinese language territorial waters.