Japan, South Korean Leaders Hold Summit in Tokyo

Pool via REUTERS
South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol shakes hands with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, as the meet at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan, March 16, 2023.

In the first visit to Japan by a South Korean president since December 2011 outside of multilateral gatherings, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held a summit with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in Tokyo on Thursday.

Kishida and Yoon confirmed the resumption of periodic visits to each other’s country.

The two leaders also confirmed a plan to resume working-level talks including bilateral security dialogue at the earliest opportunity.

After the meeting, a joint press conference was held at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Kishida said, “President Yoon’s visit to Japan marked a very significant step toward the normalization of Japan-South Korea relations.” Regarding the solutions proposed for the issue of former wartime requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula, Kishida expressed support by saying that it “will put relations between the two countries back on track.”

Yoon said: “South Korea and Japan share common universal values, and are the closest neighbors pursuing common interests. Both countries should be partners to cooperate with each other.”

At the meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office after Yoon’s arrival in the capital earlier in the day, Kishida said, “I am very pleased that President Yoon and I have the opportunity to open a new chapter of bilateral relations together for the future.”

Yoon stressed: “South Korea and Japan, which share universal values such as freedom, human rights and the rule of law, are partners who should cooperate on security, the economy and the global agenda. At a time when the values of liberal democracy are facing serious challenges, the need for cooperation between our two countries is increasingly important.”

At the summit, the two leaders likely discussed solutions to the issue of former wartime requisitioned workers. Intending to strengthen security cooperation between Japan and South Korea amid the growing threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development, Yoon and Kishida aim to pave the way to return bilateral relations to normal.

Yoon embarked on his trip Thursday morning from an airport near Seoul on a presidential plane. His departure was delayed by about 30 minutes for an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, which was held in response to North Korea’s launch of an apparent ICBM missile earlier in the morning.

Regarding the issue of former wartime requisitioned workers, the South Korean government announced a solution on March 6, in which a South Korean foundation will pay the plaintiffs an amount equivalent to the compensation that the two defendant Japanese firms were ordered to pay.

The two leaders agreed on the resumption of security dialogue between foreign and defense officials of both governments for the first time in five years, in response to North Korea’s missile launches and other accelerating military provocations.

Regarding economic security, the world’s major countries are aiming to secure advantageous positions in developing advanced technologies such as quantum technology, as well as break away from reliance on China for the supply of semiconductors and mineral resources.