Yoon: Seoul-Tokyo connects keys to tackle supply chains in North Korea

The South Korean president wants Japan to join efforts to mend ties fractured over Tokyo’s past colonial rule, saying North Korea’s nuclear threat and global supply chain challenges are fueling an increasing need for a stronger one bilateral cooperation exists.

“We cannot afford to waste time while leaving strained Korea-Japan relations unattended,” President Yoon Suk Yeol said in a written response to questions asked by several foreign media outlets, including The Associated Press . “I believe we must end the vicious cycle of mutual animosity and work together to pursue the common interests of our two countries.”

Yoon’s comments came on Wednesday, a day before he travels to Tokyo for a closely watched summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Attention has focused on whether and what steps Kishida would take in response to Yoon’s recent plans to use South Korean funds to compensate some of Korea’s colonial-era slave laborers without demanding Japanese contributions.

Yoon’s move has drawn scathing criticism from his domestic rivals, who have accused him of making what they call a “humiliating diplomatic surrender” to Japan. But Yoon has defended his decision, saying closer ties with Japan are essential to address a range of foreign policy and economic challenges.

“Korea and Japan must increasingly work together during this time of a polycrisis with escalating North Korean nuclear and missile threats and disrupted global supply chains,” Yoon said. “I am confident that the Japanese government will work with us to open a new chapter in Korea-Japan relations that will go down in history.”

South Korea and Japan, both important US allies and vibrant democracies, are closely linked economically and culturally. But their ties plunged to one of the lowest points in decades after South Korea’s Supreme Court in 2018 ordered two Japanese companies to compensate some of their former Korean employees for forced labor during colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.

Japan has insisted that all compensation issues were already settled by a 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral relations and was accompanied by $800 million in economic aid and loans from Tokyo to Seoul. The history disputes spilled over into other issues, with Tokyo enacting export controls and South Korea threatening to cancel a pact to swap military intelligence.

The feud undermined a US push to strengthen its alliances in Asia to better deal with North Korean nuclear threats and a Chinese rise.

Since taking office last May, conservative Yoon has focused on repairing ties with Japan, strengthening the military alliance with the United States, and building stronger trilateral security cooperation between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo. Yoon says the moves were necessary to deter North Korea, whose nuclear-capable missiles put both South Korea and Japan within striking distance.

Tensions with North Korea have continued to escalate of late, with the North firing a barrage of test missiles in protest at South Korea-US military drills, which it regards as a rehearsal of the invasion.

“As North Korea’s nuclear development poses serious threats to peace and security on the Korean peninsula and beyond, it is more important than ever that the international community work towards a concerted deterrence and countermeasures – this includes the ROK-US Alliance and the ROK.” -US-Japan security cooperation,” Yoon said, invoking South Korea’s formal name.

After the Yoon administration announced it would use domestically raised funds to compensate the former forced laborers who received damages in the 2018 verdicts, US President Joe Biden hailed the plan as an important step in enhancing the partnership between two of its closest allies Washington’s.

While experts say North Korea’s aggressive weapons testing activities are aimed at forcing the United States to accept it as a nuclear power and easing international sanctions, Yoon said Kim would fall short of that goal.

“As the full denuclearization of North Korea is the clear and unchanging goal of the international community, under no circumstances will the Republic of Korea recognize North Korea as a nuclear state,” Yoon said.

He said that Seoul, Washington and Tokyo are “continuously taking strong diplomatic, economic and military actions to show that the international community’s commitment to North Korea’s denuclearization is stronger than North Korea’s commitment to nuclear weapons development.”

Yoon also called on North Korea to halt its “reckless” nuclear program and take steps to address the plight of its people. He said South Korea is ready to provide humanitarian aid to the North Korean people, citing an assessment “that food shortages there have gotten worse as people are dying of hunger in some regions recently.”

Yoon expressed optimism that the thawing of diplomatic ties between South Korea and Japan would also expand economic cooperation between the tech-driven countries, which he said would be crucial to addressing vulnerabilities in the industrial supply chain and other global challenges.

“As Korea-Japan relations normalize, I expect an acceleration in strategic cooperation, such as technology partnerships, joint research and development, and expansion of mutual investments in various fields such as semiconductors, space, and biohealth, including materials and parts and equipment,” he says.

Yoon said the expanded cooperation between South Korea and Japan — both semiconductor powerhouses — will do “greatly” to improve resilience in global supply chains shattered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and COVID-19, and a US-China intensification -Rivalry.

Yoon also said that while South Korea and Japan seek stronger bilateral ties, they should also try to advance their economic ties with China in a “steady manner.”

South Korea has struggled to strike a balance between its US allies and China, its largest trading partner, amid a deepening confrontation between Washington and Beijing over regional influence and technology.

“Korea, Japan and China will work together while maintaining communication on areas of mutual interest in the economic sphere, including stabilizing the supply chain, and in our responses to health and climate crises,” he said.


For more AP coverage for Asia Pacific go to

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/south-korea-ap-japan-seoul-tokyo-b2301029.html Yoon: Seoul-Tokyo connects keys to tackle supply chains in North Korea


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