Japanese prime minister vows to resolve any issues with Korea

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Japanese prime minister vows to resolve any issues with Korea

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a press conference in Washington D.C., on Saturday [AP/YONHAP]

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a press conference in Washington D.C., on Saturday [AP/YONHAP]

Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida said he will resolve any issues with Korea during his visit to Washington D.C. on Friday.  
 
“You may be worried about the relationship between Japan and the Republic of Korea, but I intend to resolve the bilateral issues of concern as quickly as possible, to restore sound Japan-ROK relations and then to further promote them,” he said while addressing an audience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, referring to Korea by the acronym of its full name, the Republic of Korea.
 
Kishida’s visit to Washington was the final leg of his week-long tour to North America and Europe. He visited France, Italy, Britain, Canada and the United States.
 
He and President Joe Biden in their meeting on Friday stressed the importance of Japan-U.S.-Korea cooperation for regional security.  
 
Korea and Japan’s ties have soured in recent years over diplomatic spats on compensating Korean victims forced to work or subjected to military wartime sexual slavery, during the 1910-45 Japanese annexation of Korea.  
 
“I would like to continue to communicate closely with the South Korean government to restore and further develop Japan-ROK relations,” Kishida said during a press conference in Washington on Saturday when questioned about his thoughts on a recent proposal by the Korean Foreign Ministry on resolving the forced labor issue, reported Yomiuri Shimbun, a local paper in Japan.  
 
The Korean Foreign Ministry has been acting as a mediator between the forced labor victims and the Japanese government since last year to try to reach a diplomatic solution before the Supreme Court rules on a case regarding the liquidation of Japanese corporate assets to compensate the Korean victims of forced labor.
 
In its meeting with some victims and experts on Thursday, the ministry proposed having Korean corporations compensate the victims instead of waiting for the court sentencing that may demand the Japanese corporate assets be liquidated to compensate the victims. The proposal has been protested by some victims’ groups. 
 
Foreign Minister Park Jin spoke over the phone with Yoshimasa Hayashi, foreign minister of Japan, on Friday to share the latest on the forced labor issue. They also discussed regional security issues such as nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.  
 
“During the phone call, the two ministers agreed to continue close communication between diplomatic authorities at various levels to develop Korea-Japan relations and resolve various pending issues,” said the Foreign Ministry in Seoul in a statement on Friday.  
 
Kishida was reportedly considering inviting Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to the G7 summit set to be held in Hiroshima in May, according to local media outlets including the Yomiuri.
 
The two last met for about 45 minutes on the sidelines of the Asean summit in Cambodia last November.
 
Kishida’s tour in North America and Europe focused on Japan’s security ties with some of its fellow G7 countries, especially in light of its reformed security measures announced in December.  
 
The revised national security strategy, the first revision in nine years, includes provisions that would enable the country to have capabilities to directly carry out counterattacks on enemy missile-firing bases. This could potentially allow for Japan to launch direct strikes against missile bases in North Korea or China.
 
The reforms also concern doubling Japan’s military spending for the next five years, including bolstering its defenses on its islands located close to Taiwan. These measures have been welcomed by the Biden administration.  
 
“President Biden commended Japan’s bold leadership in fundamentally reinforcing its defense capabilities and strengthening diplomatic efforts, as illustrated in the new National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy and Defense Buildup Program,” reads the joint statement issued by Biden and Kishida after their meeting on Friday.
 
The same security reforms by Japan were not as welcomed in Korea, whose government saw possible security compromises should Japan have capabilities to directly carry out counterattacks against North Korea.  
 
South Korea constitutionally regards North Korean territory as part of its own.  

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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