Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol agreed Friday to improve bilateral ties frayed over wartime issues and expressed hope to meet in person as they spoke by phone for the first time since Yoon’s election win.
Kishida and Yoon also agreed to coordinate closely in addressing threats posed by a nuclear-armed North Korea, which has repeatedly fired missiles, and the issue of Japanese nationals abducted in the 1970s and 1980s by Pyongyang, the Japanese leader said. “Japan and South Korea are important neighbours and healthy bilateral ties are essential in protecting the rules-based international order and in ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world,” Kishida told reporters after their roughly 15-minute call.
“I told him that I would like to work together to improve ties between Japan and South Korea. President-elect Yoon replied that he places importance on the bilateral relationship and would like to cooperate to improve our relations, Kishida said.
During the current administration of Moon Jae In ties between Tokyo and Seoul have sunk to their lowest point in years over issues dating back to Japan’s 1910-1945 colonisation of the Korean Peninsula.
Kishida was foreign minister when Japan and South Korea reached an agreement in 2015 to settle “finally and irreversibly” the issue of “comfort women” procured for Japan’s wartime military brothels.
Compensation demands by South Koreans over what they claim was wartime forced labour have also strained the bilateral relationship as Japan maintains that the compensation issue was settled in the 1965 bilateral agreement when relations were normalised.
Japan’s recommendation in February of a gold and silver mine complex on Sado Island for the 2023 UNESCO World Heritage list has become another source of friction, drawing a protest from South Korea, which claims that the site is linked to wartime forced labour of Koreans.
During the phone talks, Kishida stressed the need to develop bilateral ties based on a relationship of “friendship and cooperation” that has been built since 1965.
“I told him that trilateral cooperation among Japan, South Korea and the United States is also important,” Kishida said, a day after the incoming South Korean president spoke with US President Joe Biden.
Conservative main opposition candidate Yoon won in a tight presidential race on Wednesday. After his victory, Yoon said he wants to build a “future-oriented” relationship with Japan.
Japanese government officials have welcomed the election of Yoon, who is viewed as having a softer stance on Japan than the incumbent. But Tokyo has taken the view that the ball is in South Korea’s court to break the impasse caused by the wartime issues.
“During the process of seeking cooperation between South Korea and Japan, it will be needed to investigate the truth of the past and put our heads together over the problems that should be solved,” Yoon told reporters on Thursday.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry said Yoon expressed his sympathy during talks with Kishida as Japan on Friday marked the 11th anniversary of the massive earthquake and tsunami that triggered the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
South Korea is among a group of nations and regions that have banned imports of food items such as fish from the disaster-hit areas in northeastern Japan.
This is not a CAPTIS article. Originally, it was published here.