Japan, South Korea renew ties at Tokyo summit

TOKYO — Japan and South Korea agreed to resume regular visits between their leaders and take steps to resolve a trade dispute during a long-awaited summit Thursday. Japan’s prime minister called their meeting a “big step” to rebuilding the two nations’ security and economic ties as they try to overcome a century of difficult history.

The summit could revise the strategic map of northeast Asia. The two U.S. allies, who have long often been at odds over their history, are seeking to form a united front, driven by shared concerns about a restive North Korea and a more powerful China.


Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol both stressed the importance of improved ties as they opened the summit, hours after a North Korean missile launch and encounters between Japanese and Chinese vessels in disputed waters.


In his opening remarks, Kishida said that the meeting will mark the resumption of regular visits between the leaders, which have been on hold for more than a decade. He told a joint news conference that the countries had agreed to resume defense dialogue and vice-ministerial strategic talks, while also restarting a process of trilateral communication among Japan, South Korea and China.

“Cherry blossoms just started blooming in Tokyo this week, and after a long winter season, in terms of our bilateral relations, Japan is now able to welcome the president of South Korea for the first time in 12 years,” Kishida said. The two leaders agreed that “reinforcement of Japan-South Korea relations is an urgent task under the current strategic environment,” he added.

Yoon said Thursday’s meeting “has special significance as it shows the people of both countries that South Korea-Japan relations are off to a new beginning after being plagued by various issues.” He added that the two countries that share same democratic values “are partners that must cooperate on security, economic issues and global agendas.”

“The ever-escalating threat of North Korea’s nuclear missile program poses a huge threat to peace and stability not only in East Asia but also to the (broader) international community,” Yoon said.

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