The Republic of Korea’s Foreign Minister Park Jin (left) and Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi pose for a photo as they bump elbows to greet each other before their talks in Tokyo, July 18, 2022. (KIM KYUNG-HOON / POOL PHOTO VIA AP)
SEOUL – The Republic of Korea’s Foreign Minister Park Jin began a meeting in Tokyo on Monday with his Japanese counterpart, carrying a message of reconciliation in hopes that the neighbors can overcome historical disputes and repair strained ties.
Ties have been fraught for years over the bitter legacy of Japan's occupation of the ROK from 1910 to 1945. Disputes concern issues from wartime forced labor to export controls, but both nations have expressed interest in improving relations
Ties have been fraught for years over the bitter legacy of Japan's occupation of the ROK from 1910 to 1945. Disputes concern issues from wartime forced labor to export controls, but both nations have expressed interest in improving relations.
Park smiled as he bumped elbows at the meeting with Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on his first trip to the Japanese capital since the ROK's new President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May, which is to be followed by a dinner.
There were no immediate details of their remarks.
Speaking to reporters in Seoul before flying to Tokyo, Park described his trip as "very meaningful", adding that he would tell the Japanese side that Yoon had a strong will to improve ROK-Japan relations.
The United States, which has separate alliances with both countries, has been pressing the ROK and Japan to mend ties to ensure better cooperation on issues such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
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ROK officials hope the high-level visit will launch talks to secure a breakthrough in the disputes, despite concerns that the death of former Japanese premier Shinzo Abe could change Japan's policy priorities.
The trip aims at "turning on the tap" for serious talks on issues about forced labor, which stalled under Yoon's predecessor, a senior official handling Japan policy told Reuters last week.
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Japanese officials also say it is important to improve ties, but they look to Seoul for proposals to resolve disputes such as the ROK’s court orders to seize assets of Japanese companies accused of not compensating some colonial-era laborers.
The ROK's Supreme Court is expected to make a final decision on liquidating the assets in August or September, and Tokyo has warned of serious repercussions if the orders are enforced.