Japan, South Korea to jointly counter regional security challenges
The leaders of Japan and South Korea have pledged to work together to counter regional security challenges.
Both leaders promised to turn the page on years of animosity at a summit on Thursday between South Korea’s Yoon Suk Yeol and Japan’s Fumio Kishida in Tokyo – the first visit to Japan by a South Korean president in 12 years.
Washington hailed the summit, calling Japan and South Korea “indispensable allies”.
“Improved ties between Seoul and Tokyo will help us embrace trilateral opportunities to advance our common regional and international priorities, including our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” a State Department spokesperson said.
“We applaud Prime Minister Kishida and President Yoon for taking this positive step forward.”
Seoul-Tokyo tensions have long undercut U.S.-led efforts to present a united front against China and North Korea.
The relationship has been strained by a dispute over wartime history, including over the compensation of South Koreans forced to work under Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation, as well as the issue of women and girls forced into Japanese military brothels.
“Today was a good day for shared interests, shared values and shared goals,” U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said on Twitter.
The urgency of the regional security situation – and the threat posed by North Korea – were underscored hours before Yoon’s arrival, when North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan.
The two countries agreed to drop an almost four-year trade dispute on some high-tech materials used for chips, something that dogged their relationship even as the political importance of semiconductors, and securing their supply, has increased.
They also agreed to revive regular bilateral visits and to restart a security dialogue suspended since 2018.
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Yoon also declared a “complete normalisation” of an intelligence-sharing pact, known as GSOMIA, which Seoul threatened to pull out of in 2019.
“This week Tokyo saw its cherry blossom trees blooming a little earlier than usual,” Kishida said as he faced Yoon across a table.
“I’m very happy to have this opportunity to start a new chapter of a forward-looking future of Japan and South Korea relations on this day when we can feel the arrival of spring.”
Yoon said North Korea’s missile launch had shown a “grave threat” to international peace and stability.
“Today’s meeting with Prime Minister Kishida has a special meaning of letting the people of our two countries know that South Korea-Japan relations, which have gone through difficult times due to various pending issues, are at a new starting point,” Yoon said.
The attempt for closer ties brought a rebuke from China, whose foreign ministry said it opposed the attempt by certain countries to form exclusive circles.