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S. Korean PM meets with Japan's Kishida, urges to improve relations

Sept. 28, 2022 - 15:36 By Shim Woo-hyun

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo (left) speaks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Wednesday morning at the state guest house Akasaka Palace. (Yonhap)

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met in Tokyo on Wednesday, agreeing to seek further dialogue on outstanding issues.

At the meeting, Han called on Korea and Japan to work toward better relations, saying it serves their common interests, and Han and Kishida agreed to continue discussions on issues involving forced labor victims and sexual slavery, Seoul's Prime Minister's Office said.

Han talked with Kishida for around 20 minutes on Wednesday morning at the state guest house, Akasaka Palace. It was a day after Han attended the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“The two countries, South Korea and Japan, are close neighbors and important cooperative partners who share democratic values and principles of market economy,” Han said.

Han said that "the new administration of the Republic of Korea, which was launched in May, has been stressing that improving Korea-Japan relations corresponds to their common interests.” Han added that he “thinks a turning point has been made for the two countries to improve relations.”

South Korea’s prime minister also offered condolences to Abe, while expressing hopes that Japan could quickly recover from damages caused by Typhoon Nanmadol.

In response, Kishida said he is “heartily” grateful for the condolences extended to Abe by South Korea and President Yoon Suk-yeol. Kishida said, “(Japan) received numerous polite condolences from many Koreans, including President Yoon and the prime minister."

During the 20-minute talk, Han and Kishida agreed to accelerate discussions to find the best solutions to issues relating to Korean forced labor victims, along with other measures to improve bilateral relations, South Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong, who is accompanying Han, told reporters.

Details regarding the solutions to issues involving forced labor victims and sexual slavery, however, have not been discussed, Cho said. He noted that the two countries so far have only agreed that the issues should be settled before discussing improvements in relations.

Cho expected that the ongoing trade spat between Korea and Japan will be also dealt with in the future as the two countries work on the forced labor and sexual slavery issues.

In regard to the next bilateral summit between Yoon and Kishida, Cho said there was no word on when it would it would happen. But, Cho hinted that a bilateral summit could take place during the ASEAN Summit in November in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Cho said Han and Kishida shared concerns about the power competition in Northeast Asia, which includes North Korea's missile provocation. Han and Kishida also confirmed the need to strengthen the US-Korea-Japan tripartite military alliance for denuclearization in the region.

About Japan's resumption of visa-free travel, Han and Kishida both anticipated that more exchanges between the two countries would follow down the line.

Han’s meeting with Kishida came less than a week after Yoon and Kishida had a 30-minute talk on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. The Yoon-Kishida meeting was the first one-on-one talk between the two leaders in nearly three years.

The last meeting between the leaders of Korea and Japan was between President Moon Jae-in and the late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in December 2019 in Chengdu, China.