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South Korean, Japanese officials meet ahead of leaders’ summit


Seoul, South Korea — On Wednesday, senior South Korean and Japanese officials discussed strengthening relations and coordinating responses to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats at a meeting in Seoul ahead of a summit between the countries’ leaders.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Sunday at their second summit since March. The two U.S. allies are working to mend relations strained by historic grievances and strengthen security cooperation to deal with North Korean nuclear threats.

Talks between South Korean national security adviser Cho Tae-yong and his Japanese counterpart, Takeo Akiba, focused on trilateral security cooperation with Washington and encouraging new global efforts to stem northern attempts Korea to evade UN Security Council sanctions to fund its nuclear weapons. program.

Cho and Akiba also discussed facilitating economic and cultural exchanges and aligning their broader strategies for the Indo-Pacific region, according to Yoon’s office.

They then took part in a larger meeting with economics and security officials who discussed issues related to supply chain resilience, climate change and emerging technologies, Yoon’s office said. .

Sunday’s summit follows Yoon’s state visit to Washington last week, where he and US President Joe Biden agreed to strengthen nuclear deterrence to prevent North Korean aggression.

Yoon, Biden and Kishida also plan to hold a trilateral summit next month during Group of Seven meetings in Hiroshima, where North Korea is expected to be among the top topics along with Russia’s war on Ukraine and foreign policy. affirmed by China.

North Korea has tested around 100 missiles since the start of 2022 as it continues to use the United States’ expanding military exercises with South Korea and Japan as a pretext to accelerate its weapons development.

The weapons North Korea has tested this year include intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to reach the continental United States and shorter-range weapons potentially aimed at South Korea and Japan. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has punctuated testing threats to preemptively use his nuclear weapons in a wide range of scenarios where the North might perceive his leadership to be under threat.

North Korea’s intensified testing activities and threats of nuclear conflict have brought Seoul and Tokyo closer together after years of history wrangling. At the Tokyo summit in March, Yoon and Kishida pledged to rebuild their security and economic relationship which had deteriorated over disputes over Japan’s brutal rule of the Korean peninsula before the end of World War II.

The meeting, which was the first official summit hosted by Japan since 2011, came after Yoon’s government took an important step towards improving relations by announcing its intention to use South Korean funds to compensate Koreans enslaved by Japanese companies during the colonial period.

The plan, which does not require Japanese contributions, aims to end a row stemming from South Korean court rulings in 2018 that ordered Japanese companies to offer reparations to forced laborers. The rulings angered Japan, which insists all compensation issues were settled by a 1965 treaty that normalized relations.

Yoon’s efforts to restore ties with Tokyo have drawn criticism from some forced labor victims and his political rivals, who are demanding direct Japanese compensation. But Yoon defended his decisions, saying closer ties with Japan are key to dealing with a host of regional challenges, particularly North Korea.

Japan’s Commerce Ministry said last week it had started procedures to restore South Korea’s preferential trade status, days after Seoul took a similar step for Tokyo and asked for reciprocity. By 2019, the countries had downgraded each other’s trade status amid an erosion of ties caused by forced labor rulings.

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.