March 17, 2023 09:33
President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday agreed to form a negotiating body to discuss security and economic issues and resume regular "shuttle diplomacy" that was halted 12 years ago over historical conflicts.
Meeting Yoon in Tokyo, Kishida promised to scrap restrictions on exports of key high-tech materials and put South Korea back on a whitelist of favored trading partners.
In turn South Korea withdraws a lawsuit against Japan at the World Trade Organization. The two leaders agreed to normalized relations that chilled to freezing point after the Supreme Court here ordered Japanese companies in 2018 to compensate Koreans who were forced to labor in Japanese factories during World War II.
In a joint press conference after their meeting, Yoon said South Korea and Japan are "the closest neighbors and partners for cooperation pursuing common interests in security and economic agendas."
"Prime Minister Kishida and I shared the view that people in both countries suffered direct and indirect losses due to frozen bilateral ties and agreed on the need to recover ties as soon as possible," he added.
Yoon also announced the resumption of an intelligence-sharing pact, which had been only conditionally extended by the former Moon Jae-in administration.
Kishida said Yoon's visit to Japan marks a "big step" in bilateral relations. "This week, Tokyo welcomed the blooming of the cherry blossoms, and after a long winter, we welcomed the South Korean president to Japan for the first bilateral visit in about 12 years," he said.
There was no direct expression of apology for wartime atrocities, but he pledged to uphold a joint declaration signed by former President Kim Dae-jung and ex-Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi in 1998, where the Japanese leader expressed his deep remorse for the "tremendous damage and suffering" the Korean people experienced during Japan's colonial occupation.
The two leaders also pledged to pursue trilateral cooperation with the U.S. to thwart the North Korean nuclear threat, which they "both view as a threat to global peace."
The ruling People Power Party here welcomed the summit. PPP leader Kim Gi-hyeon said the summit marks a "breakthrough for security and economic crises and South Korea's big decision for the future generation." He added that Japan is both an important economic partner and key ally in responding to the security threat posed by North Korea.
But the main opposition Minjoo Party called the summit a "pinnacle of submissive diplomacy" and insisted the solution proposed by Yoon, which would compensate forced labor victims with donations from South Korean businesses, warrants his ouster.
Minjoo Party leader Park Hong-geun said, "The third-party compensation plan is a humiliating solution that abandons the sincere expression of apology and acknowledgement of coercion Japanese wartime companies voluntarily included in an agreement 12 years ago."
Some surviving victims have already refused to accept Yoon's proposal, but the families of other victims support the proposal and said they agree with the president's "future-oriented perspective."
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