‘Seoul-Tokyo ties key to address North Korea, supply chain issue’

South Korea’s president wants to quickly overcome decades of lingering hostility left over from Japan’s past colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and forge a united front to meet regional security and economic challenges facing the neighbors.
Yoon’s comments were provided Wednesday, a day before he travels to Tokyo for a closely watched summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The focus of attention is whether and what corresponding steps Kishida would take in response to Yoon’s recent plans to use South Korean funds to compensate some of the colonial-era Korean forced laborers without requiring Japanese contributions.
Yoon’s push has triggered criticism from some victims and his domestic political rivals, who have called for direct compensation from Japanese companies that employed the forced laborers. But Yoon has defended his decision, saying greater ties with Japan is essential to tackle a slew of foreign policy and economic challenges.
“There is an increasing need for Korea and Japan to cooperate in this time of a poly-crisis with North Korean nuclear and missile threats escalating and global supply chains being disrupted,” Yoon said. “I am confident that the Japanese government will join us in opening a new chapter of Korea-Japan relations which will go down to history.”
Addressing Yoon’s comments, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said later Wednesday that Tokyo seeks to strengthen “strategic cooperation” with South Korea as well as trilaterally with the United States. He said he hopes that there will be “open-hearted exchanges” between the leaders of the two countries.
Japan has insisted all compensation issues were already settled by a 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral ties and was accompanied by $800 million in economic aid and loan from Tokyo to Seoul. The history disputes spilled over to other issues, with Tokyo placing export controls and South Korea threatening to terminate a military intelligence-sharing pact.
The feuding undermined a U.S. push to reinforce its alliances in Asia to better cope with North Korean nuclear threats and a Chinese rise.
Since taking office last May, Yoon, a conservative, has been focusing on repairing ties with Japan, boosting the military alliance with the United States and building a stronger trilateral Seoul-Washington-Tokyo security cooperation. Yoon says those steps were needed to deter North Korea, whose nuclear-capable missiles put both South Korea and Japan within striking distance. Tensions with North Korea have further intensified recently, with the North test-firing a spate of missiles in protest of the South Korean-U.S. military drills that it views as an invasion rehearsal. “
As North Korea’s nuclear development seriously threatens peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and beyond, it is more important than ever that the international community works on a concerted deterrence and responses – this includes the ROK-U.S. alliance and ROK-U.S.-Japan security cooperation,” Yoon said, invoking South Korea’s formal name. After Yoon’s government announced it would use money raised domestically to compensate the former forced laborers who won damages in the 2018 rulings, U.S. President Joe Biden hailed the plan as a major step toward enhancing the partnership between two of Washington’s closest allies. While experts say that North Korea’s aggressive weapons testing activities are aimed forcing the United States to accept it as a nuclear power and relaxing international sanctions, Yoon said Kim would fail to achieve this goal.

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