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Japan to consider new document to mark improving ties with S. Korea

  • July 26, 2018
  • , Kyodo News , 2:15 a.m.
  • English Press

TOKYO — Japan will consider the release of a new document to mark the 20th anniversary in October of a joint declaration seeking to promote future-oriented relations with South Korea, government sources said Wednesday.


The Japanese government is seeking to show that relations between Tokyo and Seoul have been improving. Arrangements will begin for a potential visit to Japan by South Korean President Moon Jae In this year, the sources added.


Moon’s visit, if realized, would boost the likelihood that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the South Korea leader will jointly issue the document.


Wartime history has continued to cast a shadow over ties between the Asian neighbors. The issue of “comfort women,” or those who were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels, has been a source of friction despite a 2015 bilateral agreement to “finally and irreversibly” settle it.


South Korea has been sounding out Japan about the possibility of issuing a new document. Japan, for its part, sees bilateral ties stabilizing despite the comfort women issue and judges it necessary to advance relations and strengthen coordination in handling North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues, the sources said.


In the run-up to the 20th anniversary, Japan is making preparations to launch a panel, likely to be headed by former Cultural Affairs Agency chief Seiichi Kondo, to discuss ways to promote economic and cultural exchanges.


Tokyo and Seoul are expected to determine whether to issue a document after weighing the panel’s proposals expected by this fall as well as those by South Korea’s public-private sector working group on tourism and cultural exchanges launched in May.


Even if the two countries decide to begin drafting the document, they will likely avoid touching on issues related to history as much as possible, according to the sources.


The current joint declaration, issued in October 1998 by then Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, sought to improve bilateral ties for the 21st century.


The document noted Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of South Korea during its colonial rule, and Obuchi expressed his “deep remorse and heartfelt apology” for the historical fact.

During a meeting earlier in the month with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha, Abe expressed a willingness to improve ties in a “forward-looking” manner.

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