Both countries have decided to leave behind the baggage of past. Tokyo and Seoul are now looking to mend their ties amid growing threats from North Korea and China.
Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida has made a historic visit to South Korea in nearly 12 years. This visit came after South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visited Japan in March this year. During Yoon’s visit to Japan, both leaders agreed to restart the Shuttle Diplomacy. The decade of souring relations between both countries has now seen its end as both leaders resumed Shuttle Diplomacy.
Last month South Korea and the US signed Washington Declaration Pact to protect the Korean peninsula from a nuclear attack by North Korea. These two American allies have been at loggerheads for the longest time because of some historical dispute.
This historical dispute between Japan and South Korea dates back to (1910 -1945) when South Korea was under Japanese colonization. South Korea accuse Japan of committing many cases of abuse like using forced labor and forcing Korean women to work in wartime brothels for the Japanese military during the colonial period.
South Korea has been continuously seeking a greater apology and compensation from Japan. In fact, in 2018 Korean courts ordered Japanese companies for the compensation over forced labor case. Japan retaliated against this move of South Korea by restricting the export of high-tech materials to South Korea. In an attempt to establish good relations South Korean president proposed that not Japanese companies but Korean businesses will provide compensation to the victims of wartime labor. Citizens of South Korea were unhappy about this decision of their president.
The visit of Fumio Kishida met with a strong backlash from the Korean people, as they accused Japan of its apathy toward wartime victims. Japanese people also think that this alliance with US and Japan may pose a greater threat to their country as this alliance will provoke both China and North Korea. But, despite all these differences both leaders have decided to move on and deepen their ties in the wake of growing international chaos. South Korean president even noted that “he wanted to build relations with Japan better than ever”.
As Tokyo and Seoul decided to resume Shuttle diplomacy, several visits and high-level meeting can be seen shortly between both countries. During the time of predecessors of Kishida and Yoon the ties between Japan and South Korea have hit a record low in a decade. But both countries are now seeking to overcome the past and restore relations.
As Fumio Kishida mentioned that is in the interest of both countries to build cooperation on various fronts. And Summits like this latest one will play a significant role in improving the relationship between both the countries in coming days.
Security and Economic Cooperation-
Both Japan and South Korea have witnessed various security challenges in recent times than ever. The main focus of this new summit was to build Security cooperation amid growing nuclear threats from North Korea and also increasing Chinese aggression.
Their security and economic cooperation are important for establishing peace and prosperity in the region. According to Shin-wha Lee professor of IR at Seol-based Korea University, “the disturb relation between both the countries could hamper US objective in the region”. So the US has been very keen to mediate talks between both the country.
Kishida has also invited Yoon to the upcoming G-7 Summit which is scheduled later this month in Hiroshima. US President Joe Biden and Fumio Kishida and Yoon Suk Yeol are expected to hold trilateral talks on the side-line of the G-7 Summit. Economic cooperation is also very important for improving the relations between two countries. Both countries have hailed cooperation on high-tech goods and items like semiconductors. They both have pledged greater economic cooperation.
South Korea and Japan both have similar interests and similar threats in the region. Both countries have a greater stake in the region. They both want a free and open Indo-Pacific for peaceful trade activity. Both are key allies of the US. So ultimately both the countries are on the same page. Maintaining good relations and greater cooperation will be beneficial for both the country. Better bilateral relations will be a win-win for both Tokyo and Seoul. As Yoon Suk Yeol noted in March that South Korea-Japan relations are not a ‘zero sum’ game but a forward-looking partnership.