Yoon calls for cooperation with U.S., Japan to deter North Korea
"Closer cooperation between South Korea, the United States and Japan is necessary to make it clear to North Korea that there is nothing it can gain from its nuclear weapons," Yoon was quoted as saying by his spokesperson Kim Eun-hye.
Yoon met with Japanese Ambassador to Korea Koichi Aiboshi in his transition office in Tongui-dong, central Seoul.
Aiboshi was quoted by Kim as replying, "As North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations pose a great threat to the security of both South Korea and Japan and a serious challenge to the international community, we hope to continue to work closely with the South for stability and prosperity in East Asia."
They addressed North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch last Thursday, seen as Pyongyang's abandonment of a self-imposed moratorium on such tests since late 2017.
Yoon also called for the improvement of South Korea-Japan relations "in a future-oriented way" and said that "a good relationship like in the past needs to be restored urgently." But he noted that "a lot of effort is needed from both sides."
He stressed that South Korea and Japan "are partners who share a number of cooperative tasks, such as security and economic prosperity."
Seoul and Tokyo have seen strained diplomatic relations due to historical disputes stemming from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule over Korea. Japan has especially protested Korean court rulings ordering for the compensation of wartime forced laborers and sexual slavery victims, while Seoul has protested Tokyo's export restrictions.
Yoon acknowledged, "There are issues we have different opinions on that seem difficult to resolve at first glance, but I don't believe it will be that difficult if we communicate with each other with sincerity."
He added that if the two countries' political leaders, bureaucrats and people push for improved bilateral relations with more enthusiasm, "such problems can be resolved through dialogue."
He also promised to restore "shuttle diplomacy" between Korea and Japan.
Aiboshi in turn mentioned the changes that the international community is currently facing, including Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The meeting was initially scheduled for March 17 but had to be postponed after Aiboshi tested positive for Covid-19.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida offered congratulations to Yoon over the phone on March 11, two days after his election victory.
Yoon will also dispatch a delegation to Washington in early April, before the U.S. Congress goes on recess.
Yoon's spokesperson Kim said in a briefing Monday that the delegation for policy consultations with the United States led by Rep. Park Jin, a fourth-term lawmaker of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), will visit before Congress takes a two-week break starting April 11 for Easter.
The group is expected to meet with policymakers and officials from the White House National Security Council and State Department, as well as experts at think tanks.
Yoon's delegation of around five experts on Korea-U.S. relations will be selected later this week.
The visit could be an opportunity for Yoon's delegation to discuss a North Korea approach and alliance issues with the Joe Biden administration.
Kim said, "I believe they will discuss the South Korea-U.S. alliance and ways to protect our people from North Korea's nuclear and missile threats following its abandonment of its moratorium" on nuclear and ICBM tests.
The delegation is expected to deliver the president-elect's message to the United States and possibly discuss preparations for a first summit between Yoon and U.S. President Joe Biden.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]