Yoon, Kishida Take 1st Steps to Restoring Relations

  • By Choi Kyung-woon

    March 16, 2023 12:32

    President Yoon Suk-yeol arrived in Japan for a two-day visit on Thursday and meets with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in the afternoon.
    Their meeting heralds the resumption of annual shuttle diplomacy after Korea announced plans to compensate victims of forced labor during the Japanese occupation from a fund financed by Korean businesses.
    Relations chilled to less than zero when the Supreme Court here ruled in 2018 that a 1965 treaty between the two countries cannot override individual claims for compensation and ordered Japanese firms to pay.
    President Yoon Suk-yeol (right) and his wife Kim Keon-hee arrives at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Thursday. /Yonhap
    Yoon and Kishida will now discuss the lifting of export restrictions Japan placed on high-tech semiconductor materials in retaliation, and the resumption of regular security consultations.
    The two leaders apparently see eye to eye on setting up a joint committee promoting business cooperation.
    Kishida is expected to suggest a roadmap to put Korea back on Japan's whitelist of favored trading partners. The Korean government has already come up with 100 joint projects to pursue with Japan in the fields of new technology.
    In an interview with Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun daily, Yoon said trilateral cooperation between Seoul, Tokyo and Washington to deal with the North Korean nuclear threat is "very important."
    Just a couple of hours before Yoon's departure, North Korea fired another intercontinental ballistic missile into the East Sea at around 7 a.m., which brings home the need for closer security cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo.
    But Yoon faces considerable opposition to his compensation plan. The Japan Business Federation already expressed its willingness to contribute to a proposed scholarship fund for young people, but companies like Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries that were directly responsible for forcing Koreans to labor during World War II apparently do not intend to take part.
    It also remains unclear whether Kishida will promise to abide by previous Japanese apologies and admissions of guilt for the country's wartime atrocities.
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