Japan, S. Korea apart over UNESCO World Heritage bid

Pool via AP
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi speaks during a joint press availability with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong following their meeting in Honolulu on Saturday.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and his South Korean counterpart, Chung Eui-yong, remained apart on Saturday over Japan’s recommendation of a gold mine site for UNESCO World Cultural Heritage listing.

At their meeting in Hawaii, Chung protested Japan’s recommendation of the Sado gold mine site in the central prefecture of Niigata.

South Korea claims that people from the Korean Peninsula, then under Japan’s colonial rule, were forced to work at the site during World War II. Chung told Hayashi that correct history perceptions are the basis for the development of a future-oriented relationship between Japan and South Korea.

Hayashi said South Korea’s unique assertion is unacceptable and regrettable. But he also said Japan plans to hold sincere talks with South Korea so that the mine site’s value as cultural heritage will be evaluated appropriately at UNESCO.

The talks between Hayashi and Chung were their first formal in-person meeting. The content of their discussions was revealed by the two governments on Sunday. They held the talks for about 40 minutes ahead of a three-way meeting also involving U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

At the bilateral meeting, Hayashi said Japan-South Korea ties are in a very difficult state, primarily over the issues of wartime labor and so-called comfort women, and urged South Korea to take steps to improve the situation.

Japan takes the position that the disputes over compensation for the problems were resolved by the 1965 bilateral agreement on property and claims.

Chung proposed that the two countries should accelerate talks between their diplomatic authorities to find solutions that are acceptable to victims.

Chung also demanded that Japan remove quickly its tightened controls on export to South Korea introduced in 2019.

At the talks, Hayashi and Chung shared the recognition that cooperation between Japan and South Korea and trilateral collaboration also involving the United States are important in dealing with North Korea. They agreed to continue intergovernmental dialogue on the issue.

On bilateral personnel exchanges, Chung said he hopes that the normal situation before the novel coronavirus crisis will be restored at an early date.

Hayashi only gave Chung an update on Japan’s border control measures to fight the virus.