The South Korean leader lands in Japan for the first visit in 12 years amid concerns in China and North Korea


South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol arrived in Japan on Thursday for a fence-mending summit, the primary such go to in 12 years, throughout which the 2 neighbors search to check the rising risk posed by North Korea with rising considerations about China.

These shared safety challenges had been highlighted simply hours earlier than the journey, when North Korea launched a long-range ballistic missile into the waters off the east coast of the Korean peninsula — the fourth launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile in lower than a yr.

Japan’s high cupboard secretary Hirokazu Matsuno condemned the latest launch, calling it a “reckless act” that “threatens the peace and safety of our nation, the area and the worldwide neighborhood.”

The summit between Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is an important step in repairing fractured ties after a long time of disputes and mistrust between two key US allies in Asia.

Yoon’s workplace has described it as “an necessary milestone” within the improvement of the bilateral relationship.

The 2 East Asian neighbors have a protracted historical past of bitterness, courting again to Japan’s colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula a century in the past.

The 2 relations normalized in 1965, however unresolved historic disputes continued to simmer, notably over colonial Japan Use of pressured labor and so-called “consolation ladies” intercourse slaves.

In recent times, often-fragile ties have undermined US efforts to determine a united entrance towards North Korea — and Beijing’s rising clout.

Now the area’s two key allies seem poised for the US to show a brand new web page in bilateral relations, fueled by their deepening safety considerations over Pyongyang’s more and more frequent missile assessments and China’s more and more aggressive army demeanor.

Earlier than leaving for Tokyo, Yoon instructed worldwide media on Wednesday, “Korea and Japan should more and more work collectively on this interval of polycrisis,” citing the escalating North Korean nuclear and missile threats and the disruption to world provide chains.

“We can not afford to waste time whereas leaving strained Korea-Japan relations unattended,” Yoon stated.

The thaw in ties comes after South Korea took a serious step in direction of resolving a long-standing dispute that has pushed ties to their lowest level in a long time.

Final week South Korea introduced it will compensate victims of pressured labor below Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945 by means of a public basis funded by personal Korean firms – somewhat than asking Japanese corporations to assist with the repairs.

The transfer was welcomed by Japan and hailed by US President Joe Biden as “a groundbreaking new chapter in cooperation and partnership between two of the US’ closest allies.”

The deal broke a 2018 deadlock when South Korea’s Supreme Courtroom ordered two Japanese firms to pay 100 million Korean gained ($77,000) to every of the 15 plaintiffs who had been suing them for pressured labor throughout Japanese colonial rule.

Solely three of the 15 victims concerned within the lawsuit are alive as we speak, all of their 90s.

Japan didn’t agree with the South Korean courtroom’s 2018 determination, and Tokyo had not paid any compensation.

This led to growing tensions between the 2 sides, with Japan proscribing exports of supplies for reminiscence chips and South Korea rescinding its army intelligence sharing settlement with Tokyo through the presidency of Moon Jae-in, Yoon’s predecessor.

However the Yoon administration has sought to enhance Seoul-Tokyo ties, particularly as the 2 US allies face an more and more unstable safety state of affairs, with North Korean missile assessments threatening each South Korea and Japan, and cross-strait tensions — an space that each Tokyo and Seoul say is significant to their respective safety.

After the compensation announcement, Kishida instructed reporters that Japan “appreciated” South Korea’s resolution to the wartime labor dispute, including that he took Yoon’s go to as a chance to “strengthen bilateral ties.”

Even earlier than taking the essential step to settle the historic dispute, Seoul and Tokyo have signaled their willingness to place the previous behind them and pursue nearer ties.

On March 1, in a speech commemorating the 104th anniversary of South Korea’s protest motion towards Japanese colonial occupation, Yoon stated Japan had “reworked from a militaristic aggressor of the previous right into a accomplice” that “shares the identical common values.”

Since taking workplace, the 2 leaders have launched a collection of diplomatic actions aimed toward bettering bilateral ties — and deepening their mutual cooperation with Washington.

In September, Yoon and Kishida held the primary summit between the 2 international locations since 2019 in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations Common Meeting, the place they agreed to enhance ties.

In November, the 2 leaders met Biden in Cambodia at a regional summit, the place they “lauded the unprecedented degree of trilateral coordination” and “resolved to forge even nearer trilateral ties on safety and past.”

In a notable transfer, the three leaders additionally reiterated their stance on Taiwan, emphasizing “the significance of sustaining peace and stability throughout the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable ingredient of safety and prosperity within the worldwide neighborhood.”

Nearer coordination between the US, Japan and South Korea on Taiwan is more likely to anger Beijing, which considers the self-governing democracy its personal territory despite the fact that it has by no means ruled it.

China can also be involved about South Korea’s involvement within the Quadrilateral Safety Dialogue – higher referred to as “The Quad” – a casual safety dialogue between the US, Japan, Australia and India. Beijing sees the grouping as a part of Washington’s try and encircle the nation with strategic and army allies.

Final week, a senior South Korean official stated Seoul plans to “proactively speed up” its participation within the Quad working group.

“Though we have now not but joined the Quad, Yoon Suk Yeol’s authorities has emphasised its significance when it comes to its Indo-Pacific technique,” the official instructed reporters throughout a go to to Washington, DC, Yonhap reported.