Yoon says he feels responsibility to improve S.Korea Japan ties

Seoul, May 7 : South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Sunday that he feels a responsibility to make South Korea-Japan relations even better than they were during their good times, as he held a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The two leaders met in Seoul for their second summit in less than two months, a highly symbolic meeting demonstrating the neighbouring nations are firmly on course to the full restoration of long-frayed relations, Yonhap news agency reported. "The current of a good change is difficult to make at first, but once it is made, it often becomes the trend. I believe that the current of South Korea-Japan relations today is such," Yoon added. "In less than two months since I had a summit with you in Tokyo, South Korea-Japan relations are clearly showing improvements in earnest. I feel a responsibility to create a good period in our bilateral relations that is even better than the good times of the past," he said. Kishida thanked Yoon for his warm welcome, saying he is pleased to be fully restoring "shuttle diplomacy" between them and hopes to exchange opinions on ways to move the bilateral relationship forward, Yonhap news agency reported. The South Korean President also extended his condolences over Friday's earthquake in Japan's Ishikawa Prefecture, and Japanese Prime Minister expressed his thanks. Kishida arrived in Seoul earlier on Sunday for a two-day working visit and stopped at Seoul National Cemetery to pay his respects to Korea's fallen independence activists and war veterans before heading to the presidential office. Upon arrival, he was greeted by Yoon in an official arrival ceremony that included the playing of the two countries' national anthems and a joint honour guard review. Kishida's visit comes as bilateral relations have warmed significantly following Seoul's decision in March to compensate Korean victims of Japanese wartime forced labour without contribution from Japanese firms. Yoon travelled to Tokyo 10 days after the decision was announced and held a summit with Kishida as the first South Korean president to pay a bilateral visit to Japan in 12 years. Kishida's visit is also the first bilateral visit by a Japanese leader in 12 years, marking the full-scale resumption of "shuttle diplomacy," or regular mutual visits, as agreed between Yoon and Kishida during their summit in Tokyo in March. Later in the day, Yoon and Kishida will hold a joint news conference, and then have dinner at the official presidential residence, where they will be joined by first lady Kim Keon Hee and Kishida's wife, Yuko, according to diplomatic sources. The summit was first held in a small group and then in an expanded format, covering issues such as security, high-tech industries, science and technology, and cooperation on youth and cultural affairs, according to the presidential office. North Korea was expected to feature high on the agenda as South Korea pushes to strengthen cooperation with Japan and trilaterally with the US to counter the growing threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. Yoon recently returned from a state visit to Washington, where he and US President Joe Biden agreed on a set of measures to support the US "extended deterrence" commitment to defending South Korea with all of its military capabilities, including nuclear weapons. A joint summit statement noted the two presidents also "emphasised the importance of US-South Korea-Japan trilateral cooperation, guided by shared values, driven by innovation, and committed to shared prosperity and security". Trade and economic issues were likely to be high on the agenda as well, given calls for South Korea and Japan to work more closely together to defend their interests in high-tech industries, such as semiconductors and batteries, as the US and the European Union move to protect their own industries. South Koreans will be watching closely for any discussion of Japan's plan to release contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant crippled by an earthquake and a tsunami in 2011. South Korea hopes Japan will agree to a joint investigation of the contaminated water in addition to the monitoring currently under way by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The two countries are also in the process of restoring each other as trusted trading partners after having removed each other from their respective "white lists" of nations eligible for preferential export treatment amid the forced labour row in 2019. The presidential office said the summit is unlikely to produce a joint statement, though the final decision will be made during the talks and the leaders will announce the outcome of the summit at a joint press conference. South Koreans will be paying keen attention to whether Kishida goes beyond reaffirming the positions of past Japanese governments to issue an apology or express remorse for Tokyo's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. During the March summit, Kishida reaffirmed the Japanese government inherits on the whole the historical perceptions of past governments, including the 1998 joint declaration adopted by former President Kim Dae-jung and former Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. The 1998 declaration called for overcoming the past and building new relations, with Obuchi expressing remorse for the "horrendous damage and pain" Japan's colonial rule inflicted on the Korean people. On Monday, Kishida is scheduled to hold meetings with members of a South Korea-Japan parliamentarians' association and chiefs of South Korea's six business lobbies, including SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, who is now heading the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, according to industry sources. He will then depart to return to Tokyo. /IANS


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