Japan, S. Korea leaders affirm need to restore bilateral ties in ‘informal talks’

Courtesy of the Cabinet Public Relations Office
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shakes hands with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in New York on Wednesday.

NEW YORK — Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol affirmed the need to restore Japan-South Korea relations by resolving wartime labor issues among other matters during a meeting in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

According to sources, the two leaders also agreed to instruct their respective diplomatic officials to accelerate bilateral consultations and increase summit-level communication to “develop the Japan-South Korea relationship in a future-oriented manner” in Wednesday’s meeting, which lasted about 30 minutes.

Kishida and Yoon affirmed that Japan and South Korea are “important neighbors under the current strategic environment,” the sources said. The leaders agreed to promote bilateral and trilateral cooperation involving the United States, and to work together to deal with North Korea.

Yoon reiterated his support for Japan’s efforts to resolve the issue of abductions by Pyongyang, involving Japanese nationals.

The meeting between the two leaders was their first dialogue since a brief conversation in June on the sidelines of a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Madrid.

The Japanese government described the sit-down meeting on Wednesday as “informal talks,” as it considered it premature to hold a summit between the leaders of the two countries with no prospect in sight of resolving the issue of former wartime requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula.

The South Korean presidential office announced that the two leaders held a one-on-one meeting and exchanged views on issues of mutual interest.

The South Korean government is considering how to respond to the wartime labor issue by taking such steps as establishing a public-private council to discuss the issue. The Japanese government will continue to closely monitor the South Korean side with regard to future dialogue between the leaders, according to the sources.