SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The leaders of South Korea and Japan agreed to speed up efforts to repair ties torn by Japan’s past colonial rule on the Korean peninsula as they held their first meeting in nearly three years on the sidelines of a meeting on the Korean peninsula. summit meeting. The UN General Assembly, the two governments announced on Thursday.
The meeting came after Tokyo denied Seoul’s earlier announcement that they had agreed to a summit, a sign of the delicate nature of their current relationship.
South Korean President Yoon Se-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held a 30-minute meeting in New York on Wednesday, where they shared the need to improve bilateral ties and agreed to instruct their respective diplomats to step up negotiations to that end. statement.
Kishida’s office confirmed the hotel meeting. A separate statement from Japan’s foreign ministry said the two leaders agreed to promote cooperation between the two countries as well as with the United States. It said the leaders of the two countries jointly needed to restore good relations.
The two leaders also shared serious concerns about North Korea’s recent legislation authorizing the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons under certain conditions, as well as North Korea’s reported move to conduct its first nuclear test in five years, Yoon’s office said. Japan’s foreign ministry said Kishida and Yoon agreed to further cooperate in dealing with North Korea.
Both the South Korean and Japanese governments said Yoon and Kishida agreed to continue their communication. But it was unclear when the two leaders were addressing major sticking points in their bilateral relationship that suffered the biggest setback in recent years when both countries were ruled by Yin and Kishida’s predecessors.
In 2018, South Korea’s top court ruled that two Japanese companies — Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries — must compensate South Koreans who were forced to work during the 1910-45 Japanese colonial occupation. The companies and the Japanese government rejected the rulings, arguing that all compensation issues had been resolved under a 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral relations, which included Tokyo’s multimillion-dollar financial aid and loans to Seoul.
The dispute has prompted the two governments to downgrade each other’s trade status, with Seoul threatening to drop an intelligence-sharing agreement. Former South Korean forced laborers and their supporters have pushed for forced sales of Japanese companies’ assets in South Korea.
It is unclear whether Wednesday’s summit will lead to progress on the matter, as participants in the court case argue that Japanese companies must first agree to a South Korean court ruling if they want to resolve their legal disputes.
Tensions have complicated U.S. efforts to strengthen a trilateral security alliance with Seoul and Tokyo, two key regional allies that have deployed a combined 80,000 troops to better deal with China’s growing influence and North Korea’s nuclear threat.
South Korea and Japan have sought better ties since taking office in May, and in the face of North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal, he has publicly called for improved ties with Tokyo and enhanced Seoul-Tokyo-Washington security cooperation.
But when the Yoon government announced last week a so-called planned summit between Yoon and Kishida in New York, Tokyo officials responded that there was no agreement to hold the summit.
The Yoon-Kishida meeting was the first summit between the two countries since December 2019, when South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met in China on the sidelines of the Korea-Japan-China summit.
Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.