Seoul, South Korea –
The leaders of South Korea and Japan will meet on Sunday for their second summit in less than two months, as they promote cooperation after years of strained relations over historical issues. .
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will arrive in South Korea on Sunday for a two-day visit, responding to a mid-March trip to Tokyo by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.
The exchange of visits between the leaders of Asia’s neighbors, for the first time in 12 years, signaled that both countries are serious about strengthening ties in the face of common challenges in the region. such as North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal and China’s growing assertiveness.
“I hope to have an open exchange of views with President Yoon based on our relationship of trust,” Kishida told reporters before departing for Seoul. “Since March, there have been various levels of communication in areas including finance and defense, and I plan to further develop this ongoing trend.”
Yoon’s spokesman, Lee Do-woon, told reporters on Thursday that Sunday’s summit is expected to focus on security, economic and cultural cooperation. South Korean and Japanese officials said Yoon and Kishida will discuss North Korea’s nuclear program as well as economic security and overall relations between South Korea and Japan.
During their summit in March, Yoon and Kishida agreed to resume leadership visits and other negotiations. In recent weeks, the two countries have also pulled back on economic retaliatory steps they had previously taken against each other in the years before their historic conflict rekindled.
Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have long been plagued by repeated setbacks on issues stemming from Japanese colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula from 1910-1945.
The most recent sticking point in their relationship was a 2018 court ruling in South Korea ordering two Japanese companies to financially compensate some of their elderly Korean former employees for forced labor. colonial era. The rulings angered Japan, which argued that all compensation issues were resolved when the two countries normalized relations in 1965.
Amid escalating tensions, the two countries later downgraded each other’s trade status, while Seoul also threatened to strengthen a military intelligence-sharing pact. Some activists and residents in South Korea also organized boycott campaigns for Japanese products.
The strained relationship between South Korea and Japan has complicated US efforts to build a stronger regional alliance to better deal with China’s growing influence and threats. North Korean nuclear.
In March, however, Yoon’s conservative government took an important step in mending relationships by announcing it would use local funds to compensate forced labor victims that were not working. does not require Japanese companies to contribute. At the end of March, Yoon went to Tokyo to meet Kishida.
Yoon’s push has sparked a backlash from some forced labor victims and his freelance opponents back home, who have demanded direct compensation from Japanese companies. Yoon defended his decision, saying that more cooperation with Japan is needed to address a range of challenges such as North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear program, increasingly bitter strategic competition between the United States and the United States. and China and global supply chain issues.
Some observers have suggested that if Kishida issues a fresh apology for Japan’s colonial wrongdoing during his visit to Seoul, it will likely help Yoon win greater domestic support for his policy. he for Japan. After the summit in March with Yoon, Kishida only said at a joint press conference that Tokyo stood by the position of previous governments, expressing apologies or regrets about Japan’s colonial past.
When asked if he discussed forced labor victims with Yoon, Kishida said in comments before departure: “We will candidly exchange our views on the matter.”
Seoul and Tokyo have a host of other sensitive historical and territorial disputes, mainly related to Japanese colonization. As a reminder of the delicate nature of their relationship, diplomats between the two countries last week bitterly argued over a South Korean lawmaker’s visit to disputed islands in the South China Sea. between the two countries. Earlier, Seoul protested Kishida’s offering of a religious offering to a temple in Tokyo that Seoul considers a symbol of Japan’s wartime aggression. —-
Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi of Tokyo contributed to this report.