SEOUL — South Korea’s president-elect Yoon Suk Yeol on Monday called for a future-oriented approach to help improve strained ties with Japan when he met with Tokyo’s Ambassador to South Korea Koichi Aiboshi.
“South Korea and Japan are partners that share many tasks to tackle such as security and economic prosperity and, therefore, to overcome the current thorny relationships, it is needed to form a future-oriented partnership based on correct perspective toward history,” Yoon told Aiboshi, his spokeswoman Kim Eun Hye said.
In Tokyo, Japan’s top government spokesman said Aiboshi conveyed to Yoon the importance of improving bilateral relations and Japan’s hope for Yoon’s leadership to that end.
“Japan and South Korea are important neighbors and healthy Japan-South Korea relations are critical in securing peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno at a regular news conference.
“We intend to closely work with President-elect Yoon to improve Japan-South Korea relations, and the ambassador conveyed the message to him,” Matsuno added.
Ties between the two countries have sunk to their lowest point in decades due to historical disputes, including the issue of compensation for South Korean wartime laborers who worked for Japanese firms, some against their will.
In regard to North Korea’s recent indication it would lift a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, Yoon stressed the need for closer cooperation between South Korea, the United States, and Japan.
“We have to make North Korea be assured that there is nothing it could earn through nuclear arms,” Yoon added.
Aiboshi said North Korea’s provocations are regarded as a serious challenge to South Korea-Japan security as well as that of the wider world. He added that Japan hopes to cooperate closely with South Korea in pursuit of stability and prosperity in East Asia.
Pyongyang fired a new ICBM last Thursday, bringing condemnation from the international community for violating U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Yoon met with Aiboshi for 25 minutes Monday, their encounter coming after one originally scheduled for March 17 was postponed when the Japanese envoy became infected with the coronavirus.
The president-elect and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed on March 11 to improve bilateral ties and expressed their hope to meet in person when they spoke by phone for the first time after Yoon’s win in the March 9 election.