Editorial: Future Japan-Korea partnership should be built up, step by step

May 12 , 2023

It was but one step forward. On May 7, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan met with President Yoon Suk Yeol of the Republic of Korea, agreeing to cooperate on an array of issues, including security matters. It had been 12 years since the top leaders of the two countries last met for summit talks.

Komeito Chief Representative Natsuo Yamaguchi hailed their meeting as a “momentous step forward” in bilateral relations. Until then, the primary impediment was the forced labor issue, when the imperial Japanese government forcibly brought Koreans to Japan to work at factories during World War II. It was overcome through the firm resolve of President Yoon and a sincere remark of remorse by Prime Minister Kishida.

Another issue was South Korean concern over the safety of waste water released into the sea from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor. To allay that concern, the two sides agreed that Seoul would send an inspection team to assay the radioactivity levels of the released water.

Among the most significant agreements was to forge closer cooperation in responses to North Korea’s ongoing ballistic missile launches and to strengthen their deterrence posture. They also came to an understanding of working together to bolster the supply chains of their respective semiconductor industries.

President Yoon will be attending the G7 summit that convenes in Hiroshima from May 19, at which he will be offering a wreath and prayers with Kishida at a memorial for Korean victims of the atomic bombing.

Komeito’s hope is that all these are but one step among many more needed to mend ties frayed over many years to build a partnership truly oriented toward the future.