Kishida’s South Korea Trip to Focus on Economy, Security

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, right, and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol shake hands at the summit meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo in March.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will hold talks with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Sunday during a two-day visit to South Korea aimed at strengthening bilateral ties, the Japanese government has announced.

The planned talks are part of a resumption of regular reciprocal visits, agreed to by the two leaders during Yoon’s visit to Japan in March.

Japan and South Korea aim to solidify the trust-building relationship between their leaders and to strengthen cooperation in areas such as economic security and measures to deal with North Korea.

Kishida said that in addition to boosting the reciprocal visits, the talks will “provide a good opportunity to openly exchange views on accelerating future Japan-South Korea relations and the drastically changing international situation.” He made the comment to reporters ahead of the government’s announcement on Monday in Accra (Tuesday Japan time) during his visit to Ghana.

It has been about 12 years since the last time a Japanese prime minister visited South Korea as part of a pattern of reciprocal visits, when Yoshihiko Noda did so in October 2011. Outside of that pattern, Shinzo Abe was the last Japanese prime minister to visit South Korea, when he attended the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea in February 2018.

The government also announced that Takeo Akiba, secretary general of the National Security Secretariat, was to make a two-day visit to South Korea beginning Wednesday to meet with South Korean National Security Adviser Cho Tae Yong in connection with Kishida’s visit to South Korea. Akiba and Cho’s meeting will be the start of economic security talks that were agreed upon in March.

The main agenda at the summit meeting is expected to be cooperation in building supply chains for semiconductors and other products.

The Japanese government, which has invited Yoon to attend the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima starting May 19, also hopes to arrange a Japan-U.S.-South Korea summit to coincide with the G7 meet.

Regarding lawsuits related to former wartime requisitioned laborers from the Korean Peninsula, Kishida is expected to be briefed at the bilateral summit talks on the progress of the implementation of the solution announced by the South Korean government.

The families of 10 of the 15 plaintiffs who won their lawsuits against Japanese companies over the issue have accepted the South Korean government’s solution. Kishida is expected to receive confirmation of the steady implementation of the solution during the summit talks.

However, the remaining five plaintiffs, including elderly survivors, oppose the settlement. They are demanding an apology from the Japanese side. Public opinion in South Korea also remains harsh.

At the March summit meeting between Japan and South Korea, Kishida stated that Japan would continue to uphold the position of previous cabinets on historical recognition, which includes words of apology and remorse.

It remains to be seen whether Kishida will make more in-depth statements on historical issues at the summit meeting, observers said.