Prime Minister Kishida visits South Korea for the first time in five years

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida became the first Japanese political leader to visit South Korea on Sunday in more than five years as the two countries seek to improve ties amid growing security threats in East Asia.

According to Japanese government officials, a summit between Kishida and President Yoon Seok-yeol, scheduled for the afternoon of the same day, will involve deepening security ties between Tokyo and Seoul to deal with North Korea’s missile and nuclear development. likely to agree.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (left) and South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol. (Kyodo)

Japan-South Korea relations have reached their lowest point in decades over wartime issues, including labor compensation disputes, under the administration of Yoon’s predecessor, Moon Jae-in, with the two countries at a critical juncture. Diplomatic negotiations are no longer possible.

However, President Yoon, who took office in May 2022, proposed a solution to the wartime labor issue in early March and has taken steps to improve relations with Japan. He visited Tokyo later in the month to meet with Kishida.

Kishida, who is set to host the G7 summit in his constituency of Hiroshima later this month, is keen to reach a settlement with South Korea.Asia.

Kishida told reporters before heading from Tokyo to Seoul on Sunday morning that he would like to “exchange views frankly and based on trust” with Yoon on various topics, including issues surrounding wartime labor disputes. .

Following the resumption of dialogue between the governments of Japan and South Korea in several areas, including finance and defense, Prime Minister Kishida said, “We will continue to make efforts to develop these trends.”

At a meeting in March, Kishida and Yoon agreed to resume bilateral visits between the leaders of Japan and South Korea, which had been suspended since 2011.

Tokyo and Seoul agree that South Korean government-backed foundations will pay compensation to winning plaintiffs on allegations of forced labor on behalf of the Japanese companies sued, as the two countries disagree over wartime issues. I have in fact confirmed that

However, in South Korea, the government’s proposal does not seek a new apology or compensation from Tokyo for the plaintiffs who were workers during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. The proposal has faced criticism.

On Sunday, Kishida, who is known as a dovish moderate in the Liberal Democratic Party, may tell Yun the Tokyo metropolitan government’s commitment to uphold and uphold previous government statements expressing remorse for Japan’s wartime aggression in Asia. said the official.

In 2018, South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel Corporation to compensate plaintiffs, but Japan refused to colonize the Korean Peninsula under a bilateral agreement signed in 1965. It claimed that all related issues had been resolved.

The last time a Japanese prime minister visited South Korea was in February 2018, when then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Ahead of the G-7 summit, Kishida and Yun will also discuss bilateral economic cooperation on Sunday and Japan’s planned release of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean. Expected.

Kishida has invited Yun to the G7 summit as a guest, raising concerns that China is building up its military power in the Asia-Pacific region. In late April, Yoon made an official visit to the United States and met with President Joe Biden.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (front row, left) and his wife Yuko Kishida (front row, right) arrive at the Seoul Air Force Base to meet with South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol on May 7, 2023. (Kyodo) == Kyodo

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (front row, second from right) visits the National Cemetery in Seoul before attending a summit with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol on May 7, 2023. (Kyodo) == Kyodo

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