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Japan, South Korea renew ties at rare summit in Tokyo


Hours before the summit began, South Korean Commerce Minister Lee Chang-yang said Japan had agreed to lift export controls on South Korea following the talks this week, and that South Korea would withdraw its complaint to the World Trade Organization once the restrictions were lifted.

Japan and South Korea have long had disputes over Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945 and atrocities during World War II, which included the forced prostitution of “comfort women” for Japanese soldiers. and territorial disputes over a group of islands. The ties came to a head when South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered Japanese companies to pay compensation to Korean victims or bereaved relatives in 2018, and Japan imposed trade sanctions on South Korea soon after.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Japan acknowledged South Korea’s improved export controls during the talks and that following the decision to Seoul to drop the WTO case, Japan had decided to lift restrictions against South Korea and restore the country to the status it had before July 2019.

Lee’s ministry said the countries will continue to discuss mutual restoration of preferred trade status. The two countries also agreed to start regular dialogues on economic security, according to Kishida.

The summit comes as a series of dramatic events underscore what Kishida called a “severe security environment”.

Washington will welcome better relations between Japan and South Korea, as squabbles over historical issues have undermined a US push to strengthen its alliances in Asia. The three countries began joint anti-submarine warfare exercises on Thursday, joined by Canada and India.

A North Korean missile launch early Thursday, just before Yoon leaves for Tokyo, could give him and Kishida a boost to draw their countries closer diplomatically. The intercontinental ballistic missile was launched on a steep trajectory to avoid other countries’ territory and fell in open waters off Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. It was most likely intended to send a message about both the summit and the joint military exercises.

The dispute between China and Japan over tiny islands in the East China Sea also escalated on Thursday, with both sides accusing the other of violating their maritime territory. The summit follows a series of Chinese diplomatic successes in regions traditionally considered more influenced by the United States. Saudi Arabia and Iran have announced a surprise deal to renew diplomatic relations brokered by China.

Kishida and Yoon are due to have dinner and informal talks after the summit, according to Kishida’s office. According to media reports, Kishida will host a two-part dinner: ‘sukiyaki’ beef stew at a restaurant, then ‘omu-rice’, or rice topped with an omelet – said to be Yoon’s favorite dish – at a restaurant. other.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.