Japanese cabinet ministers and members of a delegation sent by South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol agreed on Monday to make efforts to improve bilateral relations, which have deteriorated sharply in recent years due to security concerns. war.
A series of meetings between Yoon’s representatives and Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, as well as defense policy and industry chiefs, could pave the way for the South Korean group’s meeting with Prime Minister Fumio. Kishida despite opposition from some members of his ruling party, according to people familiar with the matter.
Hayashi and the delegation agreed during their meeting that they will “maintain and strengthen” bilateral relations and that they share the same ideas on freedom, democracy and a market economy, said Chung Jin-suk, chief. of the delegation and vice-president of the National Assembly. , told reporters after the talks at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.
Hayashi said the two Asian countries should develop ties based on friendship and cooperation and he expects Yoon to exercise leadership, according to a Japanese government official.
The delegation is on a five-day trip to Japan until Thursday ahead of Yoon’s inauguration on May 10, as expectations of improved Tokyo-Seoul relations grow after the country’s leading opposition candidate wins in the March presidential election.
Yoon calls for a ‘future-oriented’ approach, seeking to improve strained bilateral relations over issues related to wartime history, including ‘comfort women’ who suffered under Japan’s military brothel system before and during World War II, and the compensation sought by South Koreans for what they say was wartime forced labor.
Chung Jin-suk (left), Vice Speaker of the National Assembly of South Korea and leader of a delegation sent to Japan by South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Yoshimasa Hayashi (second from right) during their meeting on Monday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo. | MINISTRY OF FOREIGNERS / VIA AFP-JII
Under incumbent President Moon Jae-in’s administration, ties between Tokyo and Seoul have sunk to their lowest level in years due to a historic dispute stemming from Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula.
The two nations have also disagreed over Japanese-claimed South Korean-controlled islets known as Takeshima in Japan and as Dokdo in South Korea, as well as Tokyo’s restrictions on exports of semiconductor materials to South Korea in July 2019, seen as retaliation. for the Moon administration’s handling of the wartime history issue.
Seoul has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization against Japan which imposes export controls.
Defense tensions between the countries have also escalated following an incident in December 2018 when the South Korean navy allegedly locked its fire control radar on a Self-Defense Forces patrol plane in the exclusive economic zone of Japan.
A cross-party group of Japanese lawmakers aiming to help promote friendly ties between the two nations met with the delegation. He said he sympathized with Yoon, who is focused on a better relationship with Japan and the United States at a difficult time for the regional security environment following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a wave ballistic missile launches by North Korea since the beginning of this year. .
The delegation requested senior officials from the legislators’ group to attend Yoon’s inauguration ceremony.
Later in the day, the delegation met with Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, who said he would strive to establish close communication with Yoon’s administration and stressed the importance of trilateral cooperation that includes the United States to deal with North Korean threats, according to a Defense statement. Ministry officer.
While in Japan, members of the South Korean delegation plan to meet former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who leads the largest faction within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and his successor, Yoshihide Suga.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda and members of the delegation discussed export controls during their talks, an official with the Ministry of Economy told reporters. ‘Industry. Japan maintains its position that there can be no negotiations on the issue unless Seoul withdraws its complaint to the WTO, the official added.