South Korean chief lands in Japan for first go to in 12 years amid China, North Korea considerations


South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol arrived in Japan Thursday for a fence-mending summit, the primary such go to in 12 years as the 2 neighbors search to confront rising threats from North Korea to rising considerations about China.

Those shared safety challenges have been highlighted simply hours earlier than the journey when North Korea fired a long-range ballistic missile into the waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula – the fourth intercontinental ballistic missile launch in lower than one 12 months.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno condemned the newest launch, calling it a “reckless act” that “threatens the peace and security of our country, the region, and the international community.”

The summit between Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is an important step to fix frayed ties after a long time of disputes and distrust between two essential US allies in Asia.

Yoon’s workplace has hailed it “an important milestone” within the improvement of bilateral relations.

The two East Asian neighbors have a protracted historical past of acrimony, courting again to Japan’s colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula a century in the past.

The two normalized relations in 1965, however unresolved historic disputes have continued to fester, specifically over colonial Japan’s use of pressured labor and so-called “comfort women” intercourse slaves.

In latest years the customarily fraught relations have undermined efforts by the United States to current a united entrance towards North Korea – and the rising assertiveness of Beijing.

Now, the area’s two most essential allies for the US seem prepared to show a brand new web page in bilateral ties, pushed by their deepening safety considerations about Pyongyang’s ever extra frequent missile assessments and China’s more and more aggressive navy posturing.

Before departing for Tokyo, Yoon advised worldwide media on Wednesday “there is an increasing need for Korea and Japan to cooperate in this time of a polycrisis,” citing escalating North Korean nuclear and missile threats and the disruption of worldwide provide chains.

“We cannot afford to waste time while leaving strained Korea-Japan relations unattended,” Yoon mentioned.

The thaw in relations comes after South Korea took a significant step towards resolving a long-running dispute that plunged ties to their lowest level in a long time.

Last week, South Korea introduced it will compensate victims of pressured labor below Japan’s occupation from 1910 to 1945 by way of a public basis funded by non-public Korean corporations – as an alternative of asking Japanese companies to contribute to the reparations.

The transfer was welcomed by Japan and hailed by US President Joe Biden as “a groundbreaking new chapter of cooperation and partnership between two of the United States’ closest allies.”

The deal broke a impasse reached in 2018, when South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered two Japanese corporations to compensate 100 million Korean received ($77,000) to every of the 15 plaintiffs who sued them over pressured labor throughout Japan’s colonial rule.

Only three of the 15 victims that participated within the lawsuit are alive immediately, all of their nineties.

Japan didn’t agree with the South Korean court docket’s 2018 resolution, and no compensation had been paid by Tokyo.

That led to rising tensions between the 2 sides, with Japan limiting exports of supplies utilized in reminiscence chips, and South Korea scrapping its navy intelligence-sharing settlement with Tokyo in the course of the presidency of Moon Jae-in, the predecessor to Yoon.

But the Yoon administration has been striving to enhance relations between Seoul and Tokyo, particularly as the 2 US allies face an more and more unstable safety scenario with North Korean missile assessments that threaten each South Korea and Japan, and tensions throughout the Taiwan Strait – an space that each Tokyo and Seoul say is important to their respective safety.

Following the compensation announcement, Kishida advised reporters that Japan “appreciates” South Korea’s answer to the wartime labor row, including he takes Yoon’s go to as an opportunity to “bolster bilateral relations.”

Even earlier than the pivotal transfer to settle the historic dispute, Seoul and Tokyo have signaled their willingness to place the previous behind them and foster nearer relations.

On March 1, in a speech commemorating the 104th anniversary of South Korea’s protest motion towards Japan’s colonial occupation, Yoon mentioned Japan had “transformed from a militaristic aggressor of the past into a partner” that “shares the same universal values.”

Since taking workplace, the 2 leaders have launched into a flurry of diplomatic actions towards mending bilateral ties – and deepening their joint cooperation with Washington.

In September, Yoon and Kishida held the primary summit between the 2 nations since 2019 in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the place they agreed to enhance relations.

In November, the 2 leaders met Biden in Cambodia at a regional summit, the place they “commended the unprecedented level of trilateral coordination” and “resolved to forge still-closer trilateral links, in the security realm and beyond.”

In a notable transfer, the three leaders additionally affirmed their stance on Taiwan, and emphasised “the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable element of security and prosperity in the international community.”

Closer alignment among the many US, Japan and South Korea on the difficulty of Taiwan is more likely to upset Beijing, which views the self-ruling democracy as its personal territory regardless of having by no means ruled it.

China can be involved concerning the involvement of South Korea within the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – higher generally known as “the Quad” – a casual safety dialogue among the many US, Japan, Australia and India. Beijing views the grouping as a part of Washington’s try to encircle the nation with strategic and navy allies.

Last week, a senior South Korean official mentioned Seoul plans to “proactively accelerate” its participation within the Quad working group.

“Although we have not yet joined the Quad, the Yoon Suk Yeol government has been emphasizing its importance in terms of its Indo-Pacific strategy,” the official advised reporters throughout a go to to Washington, D.C., Yonhap reported.

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