Korea, Japan finance ministers hold summit

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Korea, Japan finance ministers hold summit

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Choi Kyung-hwan, Korea’s Finance Minister, right, shakes hands with Japan’s Taro Aso prior to the sixth Korea-Japan meeting between finance ministers in Tokyo on Saturday. Provided by Korean Finance Ministry

Seoul and Tokyo resumed talks between finance ministers after more than two years and agreed to separate economic issues from political strains between the two countries, signaling possible traction in the countries’ stalled diplomatic relations.

The talks between finance ministers were the first under the Park Geun-hye administration. The last such meeting took place in November 2012, with diplomatic relations between the two countries chilling since then due to historical and territorial disputes.

Choi Kyung-hwan, Korea’s Minister of Strategy and Finance and also deputy prime minister, had a summit with his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso and they reached a consensus on the principle of separation of economics and politics, Choi said.

“I think this meeting will be an opportunity to resolve the deadlock in Korea-Japan relations,” Choi told Korean correspondents in Tokyo after the summit. “Politics should be politics, and the economy should be economy.

“Due to the worsened relations between Korea and Japan, the [Korean] economy is shrinking, Korean residents in Japan are also suffering some damages, and the tourism industry is also in a slump,” he said.

According to a joint declaration released after the talks, both sides agreed to make progress in a trilateral free trade agreement between Korea, Japan, and China, as well as pushing forward with negotiations over a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free trade deal among 16 countries in North and East Asian countries.

When it comes to Japan’s participation in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Cho said he was sure Tokyo would join the bank soon.

“Although it became difficult for Tokyo to be a founding member now, it will participate in the bank some time in the future,” Choi said at the press meeting. “Korea and Japan should cooperate in various ways about the AIIB, such as improving the governance structure.”

The ministers also shared their ideas on tax reform and monetary policies, according to the Korean Finance Ministry.

Praising the Shinzo Abe government’s success in structural reforms of Japan’s economy, Choi said he found some things to learn from Japanese policy.

His praise of the Japanese economy came after the world’s third largest economy showed signs of recovery.

In September 2014, two months after Choi took office as finance minister, he denounced Abenomics by saying, “It is just printing money with a machine in a cul-de-sac.”

Both finance ministers also agreed to hold the next summit in Seoul next year, the Korean Finance Ministry said in a press release.

Although President Park Geun-hye has not held a summit with Japan’s Abe yet, a series of high-ranking government meetings have been recently held, including a meeting between foreign ministers in March in Seoul.

Talks between defense ministers are also scheduled for May 30 in Singapore on the sidelines of the Asia Security Summit, the Korean Defense Ministry announced last week.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [kim.heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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