Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol spoke together for 30 minutes in New York on such topics as North Korea policy and the issue of former requisitioned laborers. It is of great significance that the two leaders sat down with each other precisely because there are multiple issues that remain outstanding between their countries. We hope that the two governments will use the dialogue as a springboard for resolving the issues under the leadership of their premiers.
Japan and South Korea share security interests as they both face the nuclear threat of North Korea, China, and Russia. It is commendable that the two leaders confirmed the importance of promoting cooperation between their nations as neighbors that need to join hands [to address common threats].
Some in the Liberal Democratic Party among others view the summit unfavorably because Japan has not yet gotten results from South Korea on the issue of the former requisitioned laborers. The Japanese government described the meeting as a “chat.” It is a matter of course that the principles in the “Agreement on the Settlement of Problem [sic] concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea” should be firmly adhered to, but it would not be a good idea to drive the Yoon administration into a corner as it tries to work out an ROK-led resolution to the issue.
There have been several instances in the past where the relationship between the two nations’ leaders and bold decisions by South Koreas presidents have changed the course of Japan-South Korea ties. Key examples include the Japan-ROK Joint Declaration issued during the Obuchi Keizo administration and President Kim Dae-jung’s phasing out his nation’s long-standing ban on Japanese culture. In South Korea, power is concentrated in the hands of the president, and summit meetings are markedly more important than ministerial meetings.
During his days as foreign minister, Prime Minister Kishida worked hard to conclude the Japan-South Korea comfort women agreement and so he understands the importance of South Korea. For the first time in five years, South Korea has recently seen a change in government and the emergence of a new president whose universal values are similar to those held by Japan and the United States. This presents a golden opportunity. The Japan-South Korea relationship must be viewed not only as a bilateral one, but also from a strategic perspective with a broader view of the global situation in mind.
The Japanese government will revise three key documents, including the National Security Strategy, by the end of the year, and trilateral cooperation among Japan, the U.S., and South Korea is expected to be one of the pillars of regional security. A confrontation with South Korea, which is also an ally of the United States, would not be conducive to moving forward with domestic discussions on increasing defense spending and possessing “counterattack capabilities.”
It makes sense that the two leaders agreed to remain in close communication and instructed their senior diplomats to accelerate talks. President Yoon’s popularity among the public is waning according to South Korean opinion polls, and we would like to see him make further efforts to gain broad support by carefully explaining his Japan policy to his nation.