Hayashi, S. Korean delegation agree to strengthen cooperative ties

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Members of a delegation from South Korea enter the Foreign Ministry building in Tokyo on Monday.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and a delegation sent to Japan by South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol agreed on Monday that the two countries will maintain and strengthen cooperative ties as neighbors sharing common future challenges, the delegation’s chief said.

Apparently with the issues of wartime labor and so-called comfort women in mind, Chung Jin-suk, deputy speaker of the South Korean National Assembly, also said that South Korea hopes to engage in sincere dialogues with Japan on pending bilateral issues in order to hit a new turning point. But he said the delegation did not present any specific solution proposal to the Japanese side.

Hayashi and the delegation met at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.

Earlier on Monday, the delegation held a breakfast meeting with a group of Japanese lawmakers, the suprapartisan Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union, at a Tokyo hotel.

At the meeting, Chung said that Yoon has a clear principle on relations with Japan, which is escaping the worst situation as swiftly as possible, explaining the incoming administration’s aim to improve bilateral ties.

Officials attending the breakfast meeting from the Japanese side included former Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga, who chairs the lawmakers’ group, and former internal affairs minister Ryota Takeda, the group’s secretary-general. The meeting lasted some 90 minutes.

According to Nukaga, Chung touched on the 1998 Japan-South Korea partnership declaration signed by then-Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, and said that the Yoon administration will return bilateral relations to their best state in post-World War II history.

Chung pointed out that the two countries share the values of freedom, democracy, market economy and rule of law, calling for strengthened cooperation. He also presented plans to pursue cooperation between Japan and South Korea and among the two plus the United States in dealing with North Korea, which has been repeatedly conducting missile launches.

After the breakfast meeting, the South Korean delegation met with Toshihiro Nikai, former secretary-general of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The delegation arrived in Japan on Sunday, ahead of Yoon’s inauguration on May 10.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will consider meeting the delegation depending on the South Korean side’s attitude.

At a press conference on Monday, Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki said, “We’d like to take the opportunity of the delegation’s ongoing visit to Japan to surely have communications with the new administration.”

Tokyo takes the position that the issue of Koreans requisitioned to work in Japan during World War II was resolved by the 1965 bilateral agreement on property and claims, but efforts in South Korea to convert Japanese firms’ assets into cash to compensate victims continue.

On the issue of so-called comfort women, who served as prostitutes for Japanese troops before and during the war, the Japanese government is demanding that Seoul abide by the 2015 bilateral agreement confirming a final and irreversible solution to the issue.