South Korean President in Japan for important bilateral summit
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol arrived in Japan on Thursday for a key summit between Tokyo and Seoul seeking to defuse their historic tensions over security challenges posed by Beijing and Pyongyang in the Asia-Pacific.
North Korea also marked the visit in its own way, by firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that fell in the Sea of Japan hours before Mr. Yun’s arrival in Tokyo.
The two-day state visit, the most important summit between Tokyo and Seoul for 12 years, is part of a continuation of Mr Yoon’s government’s plan, announced last week by Japan, to compensate South Koreans subjected to forced labor Went. half of the 20th century.
If it does not involve direct financial involvement from Tokyo, the visit could signal a resumption of the “diplomatic shuttle” between the two neighbours.
This could be followed by Mr. Kishida’s visit to Seoul, possibly following Mr. Yun’s invitation by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for the G7 summit in Hiroshima in May.
The South Korean president made restoring ties with Tokyo a top priority in his election a year ago.
“The Japanese government will join us in opening a new chapter in Korea-Japan relations,” he said in an interview with several media, including AFP, on Wednesday.
“We must end the vicious cycle of mutual animosity and work together to advance the common interests of our two countries,” Yoon said.
– Historical Litigation –
But the past weighs heavily on their relationship, marked by the dark period of Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula (1910–1945), and in particular the question of so-called Korean “comfort women”, these sex slaves of Japanese soldiers during World War II. war world war
A 2018 South Korean court ordered some Japanese companies to pay compensation for forced labor during the occupation, plunging bilateral relations into a new crisis with the setting up of reciprocal trade barriers and the termination of their cooperation in several areas.
Japan has so far held that the historic dispute since 1965 has been resolved by the normalization of bilateral relations, notably through a package of loans and financial aid extended by Tokyo to Seoul.
Mr. Yun’s rise to power and growing concern over repeated provocations by Pyongyang and China’s growing territorial ambitions have revived hopes of reconciliation between the two neighbors.
“Dramatic changes are affecting international relations,” says Yuki Asaba of Doshisha University in Tokyo, and this “makes it all the more urgent for the United States, Japan and South Korea to coordinate”. Strengthens their potential accordingly. Korean Studies interviewed by AFP.
– A strategic merger –
MM Yoon and Kishida are expected to hold a rare joint press conference on Thursday. The two leaders had so far met only during international events.
They are about to continue their discussion over dinner, and Japanese media reported that Mr. Yoon expressed a desire to taste “omurice,” a Japanese family dish consisting of an omelette over rice.
Park Won-gon of Iwha University in Seoul warns that beyond this gastronomic rapprochement, bigger challenges await both countries.
For him, the final outcome of this summit would depend on “the extent to which Prime Minister Kishida is prepared to apologize for Japan’s past crimes”.
Tokyo has said it stands by its historic apologies for wartime acts in 1995 and 1998, but many in South Korea see them as inadequate and criticize Mr Yoon’s compensation plan.
However, the rapprochement between Seoul and Tokyo has been applauded internationally, especially by Washington, which is eager to see a rapprochement between its two closest Asian allies.
For Mr. Asaba, Mr. Yun’s concessions to Japan are partly driven by his desire to get closer to Washington, with whom he seeks an “alliance of a more global, comprehensive and strategic nature” in the economic, security or political spheres. ,