Leaders of South Korea, Japan agree to try to improve ties

Leaders of South Korea, Japan agree to try to improve ties

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – The leaders of South Korea and Japan have agreed to step up efforts to mend ties strained by Japan’s former colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula. their country’s first summit talks in almost three years on the sidelines of the Treaty. The United Nations General Assembly, both governments announced on Thursday.

The meeting took place after Tokyo rejected an earlier announcement by Seoul that they had agreed on the summit, in a sign of the sensitive nature of their current relationship.

During their 30-minute meeting in New York on Wednesday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shared the need to improve bilateral ties and agreed to instruct their respective diplomats to speed up the talks to that end, Yoon’s office said in a. statement.

Kishida’s office confirmed the hotel meeting. A separate statement from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the two leaders agreed to promote cooperation between the two countries and with the United States. He said the leaders were divided on the need to restore sound relations.

Yoon’s office said the two leaders together expressed deep concern over North Korea’s recent legislation authorizing the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in certain conditions and the North’s reported moves to conduct its first nuclear test in five years. Japan’s Foreign Ministry said Kishida and Yoon agreed to further cooperate in their response to North Korea.

Both the South Korean and Japanese governments said Yoon and Kishida agreed to continue communication between them. But it was not immediately known how useful the conversation could be for the two leaders to address major sticking points in bilateral ties that have suffered their biggest setback in recent years when the two a country ruled by Yoon and Kishida’s predecessors.

In 2018, South Korea’s top court ruled that two Japanese companies – Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – must compensate Koreans who were forced to work during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial occupation. The companies and the Japanese government dismissed the rulings, arguing that all reparations issues had already been settled under a 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral ties and included Tokyo’s provision of millions of dollars in economic aid and loans to Seoul.

The dispute prompted the two governments to downgrade each other’s trade status and Seoul to threaten to abandon an information-sharing agreement. Former Korean forced laborers and their supporters, for their part, were pushing for the forced sale of Japanese companies’ assets in South Korea.

It is unclear whether Wednesday’s summit would make progress on the matter since participants in the court cases maintain that the Japanese companies must first agree to the South Korean court’s rulings if they want to resolve the legal disputes.

The strained ties have complicated the US push to strengthen its trilateral security alliance with Seoul and Tokyo – two of its key regional allies where it deploys a total of 80,000 troops – to better deal with China’s growing influence the rise and nuclear threats of North Korea.

South Korea and Japan have sought better ties since Yoon’s inauguration in May, who publicly called for improved ties with Tokyo and strengthened Seoul-Tokyo-Washington security cooperation in light of the country’s growing nuclear arsenal. North Korea.

But when Yoon’s government announced last week a planned summit between Yoon and Kishida in New York, Tokyo officials responded that there was no agreement to hold that summit.

The Yoon-Kishida meeting was the first summit between the countries since December 2019, when South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met in China on the sidelines of a South Korean summit and Japan and China.

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Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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