TOKYO ( Associated Press) – The foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan held talks in Tokyo on Monday, in what both sides said is a new attempt to improve bilateral ties.
Relations between the countries have been strained mostly over historical issues, such as Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula and Tokyo’s mobilization of Korean laborers and sex slaves during and during World War II.
At the center of the controversy is a South Korean court ruling in 2018, which ordered two Japanese companies, Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, to pay compensation to forced Korean workers. Japanese companies have refused to comply with the rules, and former workers and their supporters responded by insisting on the forced sale of Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi’s corporate assets.
Since taking office in March, South Korea’s new conservative government, led by President Yoon Suk Yeol, has been focused on improving ties with Japan and expanding trilateral security cooperation with Washington and Tokyo to better deal with North Korean nuclear threats. Emphasis on strengthening.
“Looking squarely at (history), we want to establish a forward-looking cooperative relationship with Japan that meets our shared interests and values,” Park told reporters last week.
On Monday, Park bumped elbows with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi at the official guest house as they chatted in English together. Both have attended schools in the US and Park has studied in Japan as well.
The first visit by a South Korean foreign minister since November 2019 follows the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, considered an influential figure in shaping Japan’s foreign policy.
Talks and working dinners were closed to journalists.
Park and Hayashi met in Seoul in May for the inauguration of South Korea’s presidency, as well as in Bali, Indonesia, earlier this month for a Group of 20 meeting.
In July the South Korean Foreign Ministry began consultations with lawyers and activists representing Korean forced laborers and other experts to gather opinion on how to resolve the dispute. It is not clear whether the efforts will lead to success.
In addition to a painful history, the two nations also share a long-running territorial dispute over islands that are controlled by Seoul but also claimed by Japan. Tokyo calls them Takeshima and South Korea calls them Dokdo.
The need for the two democracies to work together on security and regional issues has come under pressure after the war in Ukraine and tensions including North Korea’s threats and saber-rattling from China.
North Korea has ramped up missile and artillery tests this year in what is seen as an effort to pressure Washington and Seoul to ease international sanctions against Pyongyang.
Kim reported from Seoul, South Korea.
Hyung-jin Kim is on Twitter https://twitter.com/hyungjin1972
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama