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Japan to send FM to South Korean president’s inauguration

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TOKYO — Japan announced on Friday that its foreign minister will attend the inauguration ceremony of new South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol next week as part of an effort to normalize strained relations between the country.

Although the decision to send Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to Seoul signals Japan’s willingness to improve dialogue with South Korea, the absence of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida from the event highlights the still unresolved issues. who have been a constant thorn in their bonds.

Japan sent a deputy prime minister to the 2013 inauguration, and incumbent prime ministers have attended the previous two ceremonies. No foreign guests were invited in 2017 for the swearing-in of incumbent President Moon Jae-in.

Relations between the countries have plunged to an all-time low over disputes over Japanese atrocities resulting from its colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, including the brutal wartime treatment of Korean laborers and the sexual abuse of children. women in military brothels.

Disagreements over the story have been complicated by court rulings, including the 2018 South Korean Supreme Court order ordering Japanese companies to pay wartime compensation to Korean workers.

Japan maintains that all compensation issues were settled under a 1965 treaty normalizing their relationship and has criticized South Korea for breaking international law. The disputes have affected trade relations and security cooperation, raising concerns about threats from China and North Korea.

Hayashi will make a two-day trip to Seoul starting Monday as Kishida’s special envoy, the foreign ministry said, stressing the importance of maintaining communication with the new government in Seoul.

Hayashi is expected to speak with a number of senior Yoon government officials, including his counterpart, but Japanese officials said details were still being worked out. Hayashi is the first Japanese foreign minister to visit South Korea since Taro Kono in 2018.

Last week, a delegation from Yoon’s incoming administration held a series of meetings with senior officials in Tokyo, including Kishida, and they agreed to make efforts to soften their ties.

Cooperation between Japan and South Korea, as well as with the United States, their mutual ally, is “indispensable for the stability of the region, including their response to North Korea”, Hayashi told reporters. before the announcement of his trip.

“Although relations between Japan and South Korea are in extremely difficult conditions, we cannot leave them alone,” Hayashi said. “In order to restore Japan-South Korea to healthy relations, I plan to communicate closely with President-elect Yoon and his new administration, but maintaining Japan’s consistent position.”

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