In the difficult relations between Japan and South Korea, there are increasing signs of a rapprochement between the two countries – also in view of the increasing threat from the regime in North Korea. “I believe we must end the vicious cycle of mutual hostility and work together to pursue the common interests of our two countries,” South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said in an interview. The growing cooperation is part of a historic “new chapter” for the two countries.
Visiting Tokyo from Seoul
Yoon will travel to Tokyo on Thursday and become the first South Korean leader to meet Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in 12 years. In advance, the Japanese news agency Kyodo also learned from government circles that Kishida was considering a return visit to Seoul in the summer.
A government spokesman in Tokyo expressed the expectation that Yoon’s visit to Tokyo would help develop bilateral relations. South Korea is Japan’s “important partner” to work with on various challenges in the international community. The President’s Office in Seoul also expressed hope that the two-day visit would help to overcome the “unfortunate history” between the two countries. It is an “important milestone” in improving relations.
Difficult dealing with the past
South Korea’s conservative government recently announced plans to settle the decades-long dispute over compensation for former Korean forced laborers under Japanese colonial rule (1910 to 1945). The proposal provides for private money – primarily from South Korean companies – to flow into a public fund to compensate victims of forced labor or survivors. Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida welcomed South Korea’s decision and said it would help restore “healthy relations”. In South Korea itself, however, the compensation plan is controversial. Victims say he falls far short of their call for a full apology and direct compensation from the Japanese companies involved.
President Yoon defended the plan, saying closer ties with Japan are essential to address a range of foreign policy and economic challenges. Both countries must “increasingly work together at this time of multiple crises with escalating North Korean nuclear and missile threats and disrupted global supply chains,” Yoon said in the interview. South Korea will “under no circumstances recognize North Korea as a nuclear state”.
Japanese Chief of Cabinet Hirokazu Matsuno responded to Yoon’s comments, saying that Tokyo is keen to strengthen “strategic cooperation” with South Korea as well as trilaterally with the US. He hopes for an “open exchange” between the heads of state and government of the two countries.
North Korea fires ballistic missiles again
According to information from Seoul, North Korea fired two ballistic missiles just after the start of the largest joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States in years. The South Korean military said the North Korean missiles were fired into the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan. “Our army has increased surveillance and alerts to possible further missile launches.”
Closer cooperation between Japan and South Korea in the face of common threats from the neighborhood
The US and South Korea declared the 10-day “Freedom Shield” maneuver in response to the “changed security environment” in the region due to North Korea’s increased aggression in recent months. North Korea had strongly criticized the maneuver, a few hours before it began, the internationally isolated country said it had already fired two strategic cruise missiles from a submarine. The military tensions on the Korean peninsula have recently increased drastically. The communist leadership in Pyongyang has repeatedly threatened a military escalation in the region.
cwo/fab (afpe, ape, dpa)