ASEAN – Officials said a group of foreign policy advisers to South Korea’s president-elect met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday in an effort to restore long-strained relations between the two US allies.
At a time when both countries confront dangers from North Korea, Yoon Suk-yeol, who took over as South Korea’s president on May 10, has announced his goal to repair ties with Japan, which have been plagued by conflicts arising from Japan’s colonialism of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
Japan is likewise eager to strengthen ties, and Kishida said at the meeting that strategic cooperation between Japan, South Korea, and the United States is now more important than ever.
“There is no time to squander in improving relations between Japan and South Korea,” Kishida said, according to the Japanese foreign ministry.
Chung Jin-suk, the chairman of the South Korean delegation, told reporters that he and Kishida had agreed to work toward forward-looking ties and common interests.
本日、訪日したカシス・スイス大統領兼外務大臣と会談しました。 カシス大統領とロシアのウクライナ侵略を巡り意見交換を行い、国際社会が結束してロシアに圧力を強めていくことが重要との認識で一致しました。🇯🇵🇨🇭 pic.twitter.com/r5bzHaB08f— 岸田文雄 (@kishida230) April 18, 2022
The seven-member South Korean delegation landed in Japan on Sunday for a five-day tour, prompting speculation in the South Korean media that Kishida would attend Yoon’s inauguration.
In 2008, a Japanese prime minister was the last foreign leader to attend a South Korean inauguration.
Yoon has talked of the necessity for the two nations’ leaders to communicate and meet more often, but the legacy of Japan’s colonial domination and wartime occupation of Korea may still thwart his attempts.
A South Korean court finding that Japanese corporations must pay South Koreans compelled to labor for Japan during its occupation reignited ancient enmity.
The Supreme Court of South Korea ordered Mitsubishi Heavy 7011.T to pay the victims in 2018, but the firm has yet to do so, claiming the case was handled under a 1965 contract.
Both parties were enraged by the situation, which threatened to harm their commerce and impair their security cooperation.
The poor relations between the neighbors have been dubbed “the Achilles’ heel of South Korea-US-Japan cooperation” by Yoon. In response to North Korea, he and Kishida have already decided to strengthen three-way relations with the US.
The US has long urged its Asian partners to cooperate more closely together, and experts believe that increased rivalry with China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have piqued European interest in developing connections in Asia.
“South Korea and Japan are the cornerstones of northeast Asia, and their influence reaches well beyond the subregion,” said Michael Reiterer, a professor at the Brussels School of Governance and a former European Union ambassador to South Korea, to Reuters.
“I hope the president-approach elect’s to Japan finds fruitful ground – there is a need to reestablish confidence.”