Japan, S. Korea summit should overcome historical past to resume ties

Japan, S. Korea summit should overcome historical past to resume ties

Japan, S. Korea summit should overcome historical past to resume ties

TOKYO (AP) — South Korean and Japanese leaders will meet in Tokyo this weekhoping to renew common visits after a niche of over a decade and overcome resentments that date again greater than 100 years. The 2 main Asian economies and U.S. allies have lengthy hoped to cooperate on shared safety considerations about China and North Korea, however earlier rounds of diplomacy have foundered on unresolved points from Japan’s 35-year occupation of the Korean Peninsula.

Seoul has offered Tokyo concessions on South Korean demands for compensation over wartime compelled labor, but it surely stays to be seen whether or not the South Korean public will settle for reconciliation.

The AP explains what’s stored the 2 neighbors aside, what they’re anticipated to speak about, and why it issues for the area.


Japan successfully colonized the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945, in a regime that imposed Japanese names and language on Koreans and conscripted many into forced labor or forced prostitution in navy brothels earlier than and through World Warfare II. Japan paid $800 million in reparations to South Korea’s military-run authorities in 1965, however this cash was by no means distributed to victims. A semi-government fund provided compensation to former “consolation girls” when the federal government apologized in 1995, however many South Koreans imagine that the Japanese authorities should take extra direct accountability for the occupation.

The 2 sides even have a longstanding territorial dispute over a bunch of islands managed by South Korea and claimed by Japan.

Seoul and Tokyo have tried to ascertain higher ties earlier than. In 2004, leaders started common visits, however these resulted in 2012 after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited the disputed islands. Tensions escalated previously 10 years as conservative Japanese governments moved to rearm the nation whereas stepping up makes an attempt to whitewash Japan’s wartime atrocities, and in 2018 South Korea’s Supreme Court docket ordered Japan’s Nippon Metal and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to compensate compelled labor victims. In 2019, Japan, in obvious retaliation, positioned export controls on chemical substances used to make semiconductors and shows utilized in smartphones and different high-tech gadgets.


South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are to carry a summit and have dinner collectively throughout Yoon’s March 16-17 state go to. Although leaders have met in multilateral settings, together with on the sidelines of a United Nations assembly in New York in September, that is the primary formal bilateral summit since a gathering in Seoul in 2015.

Kishida is predicted to reaffirm Japan’s previous expressions of regret over its wartime actions.

Either side have signaled hopes that this summit will result in a resumption of standard bilateral visits, though Kishida hasn’t but introduced plans for a go to to South Korea. Tokyo can be contemplating an invite to Yoon to return to Japan as an observer on the Group of Seven summit Kishida will host in Hiroshima in Could.

A serious enterprise mission accompanying Yoon is predicted to fulfill their Japanese counterparts. Masakazu Tokura, chair of the Japan Enterprise Federation, stated the 2 sides are contemplating establishing a separate, non-public fund to advertise bilateral economic system, safety, tradition and different key areas of cooperation.


Improved ties between South Korea and Japan might pave the way in which for the 2 U.S. allies to cooperate extra carefully on shared safety considerations associated to China and North Korea.

Washington is raring to get its allies on the identical web page, and seems to have labored intensively to deliver in regards to the summit. U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel stated his nation and its two allies had about 40 trilateral conferences and he thinks cooperation within the course of helped to construct up belief. Whereas Japan more and more bolstered protection ties with the U.Okay., Australia, India and the Philippines, challenges in Japan-South Korea relations had been apparent and their nearer relationship “within the bigger context of our strategic alignment … is a really massive deal.”

South Korean officers have denied direct strain from the Biden administration to resolve the historic discord with Tokyo, however the plan is outwardly a part of South Korean efforts to strengthen alliances to counter North Koreawhich has been increasing nuclear-capable missiles and issuing threats of preemptive nuclear strikes.

Whereas pushing to increase U.S.-South Korea joint navy workouts, the Yoon authorities has sought Washington’s stronger reassurances to swiftly and decisively use its nuclear weapons to guard its ally from North Korea.

Seoul and Tokyo final week additionally introduced plans for talks to revive the nation’s commerce relations, which might relieve strain from international high-tech provide chains. South Korean officers say stronger financial cooperation with Tokyo has change into extra essential within the face of commercial provide chain disruptions and different international challenges.

“The necessity to strengthen South Korea-Japan cooperation has by no means been better within the period of complicated crises, introduced by uncertainties in international geopolitics, North Korea’s continued nuclear and missile testing exercise and the disruption in industrial provide chains,” South Korean Vice Overseas Minister Cho Hyundong stated final week.


Consultants say that the 2 international locations must discover an lodging on historical past if this spherical of diplomacy is to realize lasting outcomes.

Choi Eun-mi, an analyst at South Korea’s Asan Institute for Coverage Research, stated the Kishida-Yoon summit wouldn’t change South Korean public opinion if it’s all about safety and financial issues. “There have to be some type of expression of apologies and self-reflection by Japan, particularly by the Japanese authorities and the defendant corporations,” she stated.

Seoul made a big concession previous to the summit, saying plans to use its own funds to pay out compensation from the 2018 courtroom order. South Korea will provide reparations to the plaintiffs via an present state-run basis that may increase the cash from South Korean corporations that benefited from the 1965 accord accompanied by $800 million in financial help and loans from Tokyo to Seoul. It is a main reduction for Tokyo, which fears that additional South Korean courtroom orders might impose large compensation calls for on a whole lot of different Japanese corporations that used wartime compelled labor.

The plan has met fierce opposition from surviving compelled labor victims, their supporters, and opposition politicians, who’ve demanded compensation straight from Japanese corporations and a contemporary apology from Tokyo. Solely three of 15 compelled labor victims who gained damages in 2018 are nonetheless alive, and all three refused to simply accept South Korean funds in written notes submitted to the muse, stated their lawyer, Lim Jae-sung.

South Korean legislation permits for third-party reimbursements, and officers stated that they are going to do their greatest to influence the victims to simply accept the funds.

South Korean officers say they don’t count on Nippon Metal or Mitsubishi to instantly contribute to funds for the compelled labor victims, and Japan’s Overseas Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi stated it’s as much as Japanese corporations to resolve whether or not to contribute to the funds voluntarily.

The way forward for the deal may relaxation on whether or not Kishida’s authorities can win over South Korean public opinion. South Korean officers specific hope that Yoon brings again a “honest response” from Tokyo as bilateral relations enhance.

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