March 02, 2023 09:31
In a speech on Wednesday marking a nationwide protest in 1919 against Japanese occupation, President Yoon Suk-yeol urged his country to consider Japan as an ally in dealing with escalating threats from North Korea.
"Now, a century after the March 1 Independence Movement, Japan has transformed from the militaristic aggressor of the past into a partner that shares the same universal values with us," Yoon said.
He stressed that trilateral cooperation between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo is "more important than ever" to overcome "security crises including North Korea's growing nuclear threats."
"We must stand in solidarity with countries that share universal values to help promote the freedom of global citizens and the common prosperity of all humankind," he said. "This spirit of solidarity and cooperation is the same spirit that called for our nation's freedom and independence 104 years ago."
It was perhaps the first time that an incumbent South Korean president has called Japan a "partner" in the context of the two countries' fractious history.
Yoon did not mention the sexual enslavement of Korean women by the Japanese military or forced labor during World War II, hinting that diplomatic negotiations to settle the divisive historical issues are finally approaching resolution.
"Yoon expects Japan to take sincere steps to resolve those issues as the South Korean government has done," a diplomatic source here said. "But he also believes that his country should not become bogged down in demands for apologies and repentance to the point where a breakthrough in talks becomes impossible."
Around 1,300 guests attended the ceremony including descendants of independence fighters, lawmakers and foreign diplomats.
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