Japan, South Korea Seek to Mend Ties at Rare Summit in Seoul

(Bloomberg) — The leaders of South Korea and Japan said they planned to discuss cooperation on global issues and security concerns raised by North Korea as they started their first formal summit held in Seoul in about a dozen years.

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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol told Fumio Kishida at their Sunday meeting that he sees the visit of the Japanese prime minister as beneficial to ties between the two neighbors who are both allies of the US.

Yoon said the two “must move away from the perception that we cannot take a single step toward future cooperation unless our past history is fully settled.” Kishida said at the start of their meeting that talks with Seoul are moving in a dynamic manner on various fronts.

The two are seeking to bolster business and military cooperation with the US even while remaining mindful of the importance of keeping ties steady with their biggest trading partner, China

It’s a delicate balance as Washington and Beijing squabble over everything from the supply of chips and cutting-edge technology, to an alleged Chinese spy balloon being shot down over American skies and China’s partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the forefront too is an increasingly belligerent North Korea, which fired an intercontinental ballistic missile designed to strike the US just hours before Kishida and Yoon held a summit in Tokyo in March.

Ties between the neighbors began to warm earlier this year after Yoon proposed a resolution for the long-standing dispute over compensation for Japan’s use of Korean forced labor during its 1910-45 occupation of the peninsula. His proposal, which involves South Korean firms contributing to a compensation fund for conscripted Korean workers, has not been well-received by the majority of the local public.

The payments were meant to avoid forcing Japanese companies to provide compensation, in line with Tokyo’s contention all such claims were settled under a 1965 agreement. Biden’s administration welcomed the move, calling it a “groundbreaking” deal.

In the wake of the move, South Korea reinstated Japan to its list of preferred trading partners in April. Later that month, Japan’s trade ministry started seeking public opinions on restoring South Korea to Tokyo’s list of preferred trading partners, in a procedural step that would eventually streamline the export processes to South Korea.

–With assistance from Takashi Hirokawa, Shinhye Kang, Seyoon Kim and Hooyeon Kim.

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