Japan Govt Welcomes Yoon’s Speech Calling Japan “Partner”

Reuters file photos
The Japanese flag (L) and South Korean flag (R)

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—The Japanese government appeared to welcome South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s speech on Wednesday, in which he called Japan a “partner” of his country.

Japan is “a partner that shares the same universal values with us,” Yoon said in his speech at a ceremony marking the 104th anniversary of the March 1 Korean independence movement against Japan.

“We’ll accept (Yoon’s speech) positively,” a senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.

The Japanese government plans to closely monitor the Yoon administration’s moves to settle the issue of Koreans conscripted to work for Japanese companies during World War II.

At a press conference in Tokyo the same day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said, “South Korea is an important neighbor that we should cooperate with on global issues.”

“In order to bring back and build on a healthy bilateral relationship, we will maintain close communication with the South Korean government,” Matsuno noted.

Yoon’s speech was in stark contrast to the speech by his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, at last year’s March 1 ceremony, in which Moon said, “Japan must squarely face history and be humble before it.”

Viewing Yoon’s inauguration in May last year as an opportunity to promote cooperation between the two Asian nations, Tokyo has been working to mend its frayed ties with Seoul.

The Japanese side believes that cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea is important, including in dealing with North Korea, which has repeatedly fired ballistic missiles.

In Wednesday’s speech, Yoon did not mention the thorny wartime labor issue.

The South Korean government has recently presented a settlement proposal to South Korean plaintiffs in wartime labor lawsuits. Both countries’ diplomatic authorities are also in close contact over the issue.

A veteran lawmaker from Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party suggested that Seoul’s efforts to resolve the issue “may have reached the final stretch.”

Yoon “may have chosen not to mention (the wartime labor issue) because there are people within South Korea who are opposed to the proposal,” the LDP lawmaker said.