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S.Korean President in Japan, calls for closer cooperation against Pyongyang's threats

IANS | March 16, 2023 02:53 PM

TOKYO: During his highly symbolic trip to Japan, visiting South Korean Yoon Suk-yeol on Thursday said Seoul and Tokyo should work together to deal with threats from North Korea, as he opened a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida amid a thaw in the long-strained relations between the two nations.

The summit took place at the Prime Minister's official residence hours after the President arrived in the country on a highly symbolic trip in the wake of the resolution of a protracted row over wartime forced labour, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The two-day visit is South Korea's first bilateral presidential trip to the neighboring nation in 12 years, an illustration showing how long the relations between the two countries have been frayed over historical disputes.

Yoon said in his opening remarks that South Korea and Japan should cooperate closely to counter increasingly sophisticated nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, while Kishida said the two countries have an opportunity to open up a new chapter in their relations.

Ahead of the summit, which was preceded by a joint inspection of an honor guard at the prime minister's residence, the two governments and business communities announced a series of agreements aimed at improving the bilateral relationship.

Japan agreed to lift its restrictions on exports of key industrial materials for semiconductors and displays, which had been placed on South Korea in 2019 in apparent response to the forced labor dispute.

The two countries' big business lobbies also said they would each create a fund to promote joint research and youth exchanges.

Shortly before Yoon's departure, North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile into the East Sea, a provocation that underlined the need for closer security cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo as well as for trilateral cooperation with the US.

Upon arriving in Tokyo, he visited a situation room set up at his hotel to receive a virtual briefing from military and security officials on the latest developments following the missile launch, a presidential official said.

This week's trip came less than two weeks after Seoul announced a solution to the long-running dispute over compensation for Koreans forced into hard labour for Japanese companies when Korea was under Japan's colonial rule from 1910-1945.

Under the plan, a public foundation affiliated with the interior ministry will compensate the victims with donations from domestic businesses, a solution that has already been rejected by some of the victims for the lack of participation by Japanese firms.

Yoon kicked off his working visit by meeting with Korean residents over lunch.

This is his first visit to Japan since taking office and the first by a South Korean president in nearly four years.

Former President Moon visited Osaka in 2019, but that trip was for a G20 summit, not a bilateral visit.

The last bilateral visit was by former President Lee Myung-bak in December 2011.

Yoon and Kishida have held bilateral summits on the sidelines of multilateral gatherings.

They met during the UN General Assembly in New York last September and again during a gathering led by Southeast Asian nations in Cambodia in November.

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