South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol (L) and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shake hands ahead of a summit meeting at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo on 16 March 2023InternationalIndiaAfricaOleg BurunovThe South Korean president and his wife are scheduled to tour Japan on March 16-17, a trip that marks the first visit of a South Korean leader to the Land of the Rising Sun in 12 years.South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have agreed to resume “shuttle diplomacy” and take steps towards resolving a trade dispute after their fence-mending summit in Tokyo.
Kishida told reporters on Thursday that "strengthening Japan-South Korea ties in the current strategic environment is urgent." He expressed hope that Yoon’s visit "will nurture trust and friendship and significantly elevate Japan-South Korea relations."
© AFP 2023 / KAZUHIRO NOGISouth Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol (R) and his wife Kim Keon Hee (C) arrive at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on March 16, 2023South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol (R) and his wife Kim Keon Hee (C) arrive at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on March 16, 2023According to Kishida, both sides had agreed to revive defense dialogue and vice-ministerial strategic talks, while also restarting the process of trilateral communication among Japan, South Korea and China.”Tokyo’s cherry blossoms just started blooming this week, and after a lenghty winter season, in terms of our bilateral relations, Japan is now able to welcome South Korea’s president for the first time in 12 years,” the Japanese prime minister noted.
Yoon, for his part, touted Thursday's summit as a gathering that "has special significance as it shows the people of both countries that South Korea-Japan relations are off to a new beginning after being plagued by various issues."
He added that the two countries that share the same democratic values are “partners that must cooperate on security, economic issues and global agendas.”
The South Korean president also singled out what he described as "the ever-escalating threat of North Korea’s nuclear missile program" that he said "poses a huge threat to peace and stability not only in East Asia but also to the (broader) international community." Yoon urged Seoul and Tokyo "to work closely together and in solidarity to wisely counter the threat."
“South Korea’s interests are not zero-sum with Japan’s interests,” he emphasized, adding that “better bilateral relations would “greatly help both countries deal with their security crises.”The remarks came after Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news briefing on Wednesday that Tokyo seeks to boost strategic ties with Seoul and expects bilateral ties to develop based on friendship and joint cooperation.”Given the present strategic situation, including in ensuring security, we are counting on bolstering strategic relations between Japan and South Korea, as well as Japan, South Korea and the United States. We will cooperate with South Korea to realize the aim of a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” Matsuno said. It remains unclear, however, whether both sides will be able to adhere to the summit’s decisions given Tokyo and Seoul’s previous record of uneasy relationsship.
Thaw in Seoul-Tokyo Ties
The relations between two immediate neighbors deteriorated in 2018, after South Korea accused Japan of using forced labor during its 1910-1945 colonial rule, which specifically saw the use of wartime sex slaves, the so-called “comfort women,” and forced labor.In November 2018, the top court of South Korea ordered Japanese companies, including Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, to compensate the victims of forced labor, a decision that infuriated Tokyo.AsiaMission Impossible? Why NATO is Failing to ‘Ukrainize’ South Korea & Japan2 February, 04:38 GMTThe situation started to change for the better after Yoon assumed office as South Korea’s president in May 2022 and set a course for mending ties with Tokyo in order to improve both bilateral relations and the trilateral security partnership with Washington.Last week, the South Korean government proposed a compensation plan for the victims of forced labor during Japan’s wartime rule through a South Korean public foundation instead of Japanese companies, as it was originally ruled by the court. While some of the victims rejected the proposal, Tokyo welcomed the draft plan.