The Republic of Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol (right) and his wife Kim Keon-hee disembark from the aircraft upon their arrival at Tokyo's Haneda Airport on March 16, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
TOKYO – The Republic of Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol arrived in Tokyo on Thursday, hours after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea fired a ballistic missile, as he looks to use the first visit to Japan by a ROK's president in 12 years to find common ground.
Yoon will meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in the afternoon when the two are expected to present a united front as they seek to put behind years of animosity arising from Japan's 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula.
Before Yoon's flight, the DPRK fired a long-range ballistic missile, which landed in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan.
The ROK's President Yoon Suk-yeol has said that he expects to "invigorate" security cooperation and the two leaders are preparing to confirm the restart of a bilateral security dialogue which has been suspended since 2018, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK
The two are also expected to discuss cooperation to secure supply chains.
"There is an increasing need for Korea (the ROK) and Japan to cooperate in this time," Yoon said in a written interview with international media on Wednesday.
Yoon has said that he expects to "invigorate" security cooperation and the two leaders are preparing to confirm the restart of a bilateral security dialogue which has been suspended since 2018, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.
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Tokyo and Seoul are also expected to revive "shuttle diplomacy" of regular visits between the leaders, according to a Yomiuri daily report citing Japanese government sources.
Still, Japan remains cautious about immediate improvements in relations, with a Japanese government official who requested anonymity saying that the bilateral relations "are looking up, but is still a step-by-step process."
The national flags of Japan (left) and the Republic of Korea (right) flutter in the wind ahead of the arrival of the ROK’s President Yoon Suk-yeol at Tokyo's Haneda Airport on March 16, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
Still, Japan remains cautious about immediate improvements in relations, with a Japanese government official who requested anonymity saying that bilateral relations is still "a step-by-step process"
Yoon also faces skepticism at home. In a poll by Gallup Korea published Friday, 64 percent of respondents said there was no need to rush to improve ties with Japan if there was no change in its attitude, and 85 percent said they thought the current Japanese government was not apologetic about Japan's colonial history.
Park Hong-keun, floor leader of the ROK's main opposition Democratic Party, said Yoon's visit should not stop at "his trip down memory lane" and asked Yoon to earn a true apology and resolution from Japan on forced labor issues during his trip.
Relations between the two countries, which have frayed over disputed islands, wartime labor and "comfort women" forced to work in Japanese wartime brothels, made headway last week when Seoul announced a plan for its companies to compensate former forced laborers.
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Kishida welcomed the labor compensation move and spoke of hopes of "bolstering relations" with Yoon's visit.
The two also met in November on the sidelines of the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia.