Japan, South Korea to improve ties at summit amid regional threat

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will seek to resolve disputes over history and quickly rebuild security and economic ties when they meet later on Thursday for the first summit between the two nations in more than a decade in meet Japan.

Japan’s invitation for Yoon to visit followed South Korea’s announcement of a local compensation fund for Korean victims of wartime forced labor by Japanese companies, which would not require Japanese contributions.

The summit underscores their shared sense of urgency to form a united front for North Korea and China with their common ally, the United States.

Hours before Yoon left for Tokyo, North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in open waters off Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. The launch was seen as a protest by the north of the summit and ongoing training between the US and South Korean militaries.

Rocket launch could boost momentum for Tokyo-Seoul rapprochement

“Regional peace and stability are important to the region, and we must continue to strengthen cooperation between allies and like-minded countries,” Kishida said of the missile launch.

Chief Cabinet Hirokazu Matsuno said Japan wants to reaffirm cooperation with Seoul and Washington in response to North Korea’s missile threats at the summit.

Yoon, in his written response to questions from foreign media outlets including The Associated Press on Wednesday, said there was no time to lose while strained Korea-Japan relations go unattended. “I believe we must end the vicious cycle of mutual animosity and work together to pursue the common interests of our two countries.”

Better Japan-South Korea relations are needed as feuds over historic issues have undermined a US push to strengthen its alliances in Asia to better deal with North Korean nuclear threats and China’s rise.

The focus of attention at the two nations’ first summit in Japan since 2011 is how Kishida reacts to Yoon’s plan for the fund, a major concession from Seoul aimed at a breakthrough, and if or when she will expand the defense dialogues and regular visits by the leaders can resume.

According to Kishida’s office, after their summit meeting, Kishida and Yoon are supposed to have dinner together and then have informal talks. According to media reports, Kishida will host a two-part dinner: “sukiyaki” beef stew for a first round, then “omu rice” or rice with omelette — reportedly Yoon’s favorite dish — at another restaurant.

Japan and South Korea have long-standing disputes over Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910-1945 and atrocities during World War II, which included forced prostitution of “comfort women” for Japanese soldiers and territorial disputes over a cluster of islands.

Relations declined after South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered two Japanese companies, Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, in 2018 to compensate some of their former Korean employees for forced labor during World War II.

Japan has insisted that all compensation issues were settled by a 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral ties and was accompanied by $800 million in economic aid and loans from Tokyo to Seoul.

The disputes over history spilled over into trade and defense. The two countries agreed on negotiations to restore South Korea’s trade status to one before Japan imposed restrictions in 2019.

On Friday, a dozen South Korean business leaders traveling with Yoon are scheduled to meet Japanese counterparts and possibly discuss setting up a private fund for economic, security and cultural projects.


Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea contributed to this report.


For more AP coverage for Asia Pacific go to

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/fumio-kishida-ap-japan-tokyo-seoul-b2301858.html Japan, South Korea to improve ties at summit amid regional threat


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