Yoon met Kishida at his official residence on March 16 for two meeting sessions during his two-day visit to Japan. The two leaders attended the first 23-minute-long meeting attended by only a few key officials and the second expanded meeting. Through a joint statement, the Japanese prime minister said that he is happy to be given an opportunity to open a new chapter in South Korea-Japan relations.
Kishida also said that the prime minister and his South Korean counterpart reached a consensus on resuming shuttle diplomacy without being bound by formalities, adding that South Korea and Japan would share opinions on strengthening the communication between governments to cooperate in various sectors including politics, economy, and culture.
Yoon replied that he also agrees with Kishida on resuming shuttle diplomacy and said that he hopes that the two countries work together to open a new era of South Korea-Japan relations through close communication. "Japan, which shares the universal values of freedom, human rights, and the rule of law with South Korea, is a partner that needs to cooperate on security and economic global agendas," Yoon said.
Seoul and Tokyo hope that the summit meeting becomes an icebreaker for the two countries that were locked in a diplomatic row over a decision by South Korea's highest court in October 2018. Justices acknowledged individual rights to get compensation for wartime forced labor during Imperial Japan's colonial rule (1910~1945). The Supreme Court upheld a 2013 ruling that ordered Japan's Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to pay 100 million won each to four Korean victims.
After the Supreme Court's ruling, Japan took retaliatory steps in 2019 to regulate exports of three key semiconductor materials to South Korea in an effort to hamper South Korea's economic growth based on exports of semiconductors, cars, and electronics. Tokyo also removed its neighboring country from a "white list" of trusted trading partners. South Korea hit back with similar steps and decided to file a lawsuit against Japan with the World Trade Organization. The international relations between the two countries remained frozen since.
The Tokyo summit meeting between the leaders from South Korea and Japan was the first one that was held in 12 years since former South Korean President Lee Myoung-bak met former Japanese Prime Noda Yoshihiko in Japan's capital city in 2011. "I was able to visit Japan as a South Korean president for the first time in 12 years and attend a summit meeting," Yoon said, stressing that Seoul and Tokyo should wisely counteract international challenges like the threat of North Korean nuclear weapons, regarding Pyongyang which test-fired an inter-continental ballistic missile in the early morning of March 16.
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