The top two leaders of Japan and South Korea met in Tokyo to put aside past disputes, which is being hailed as a new milestone in the relationship between the two countries.
In the week before the meeting between the two leaders, North Korea has fired four ballistic missiles, raising tensions in the region.
Amidst that tension, the meeting between the leaders of Japan and South Korea is a reminder of why security is taking precedence over past disputes between the two countries.
In the face of regional threats, these two neighboring countries of Asia want to break the ice-cold relationship of the past and move forward by prioritizing their own security.
According to the BBC, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol arrived in Tokyo, the capital of Japan, on Thursday. This is the first visit to Japan by a Seoul leader in a century.
The South Korean president made the visit at the invitation of Tokyo. He directly met with the Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida.
BBC reported that the two leaders agreed on several issues during the meeting. One of which is that from now on, the two leaders will visit each other’s countries regularly and settle long-standing disputes over trade.
In addition, Japan has agreed to lift a ban on small parts exports from South Korea. And South Korea has said it will withdraw its complaint against Japan at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The BBC has analyzed the causes and consequences of the two countries’ improved relations, forgetting their disputes.
Seoul has taken the first step, though their expectations are high:
The difficult task of creating the atmosphere for such a meeting with Japan has been done very successfully by South Korean President Yoon Suk.
This is the first time since 2011 that a South Korean president has been invited to Tokyo.
For so long, these two neighboring countries have been plagued by historical complications. South Korea was a Japanese colony from 1910 until World War II.
During that time, the Japanese army forced millions of Koreans to work in mines and factories. They kept Korean women as sex slaves. Those old wounds have not been forgotten or forgiven.
However, South Korean President Yoon took an initiative last week to prioritize fixing relations with Japan. He withdrew Seoul’s demand for reparations from Japan for some of the victims enslaved by Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Instead, Yoon agreed to collect the compensation money from South Korea itself. He also announced the decision of Seoul to compensate South Koreans who were forced to work in Japanese factories.
Through this, Yun tried to put aside the past conflict with Japan for the sake of the security of Northeast Asia. South Korea’s opposition leader, however, described the deal as ‘the most humiliating event in the country’s history’.
Japan invited President Yoon to visit Tokyo because of this initiative, despite being criticized by opponents.
The diplomats were quite surprised and impressed by the incident. They see it as an easy and smart move. Such a decision is absolutely unheard of, especially in politics, from someone with no prior experience in foreign policy.
Yul was a lawyer until he was elected president of South Korea last year. After taking power, he made repairing the broken relationship with Japan a cornerstone of his foreign policy.
Arch-rival North Korea now has nuclear weapons. The country is becoming more and more dangerous for South Korea. In this situation, Seoul thinks that it will be profitable to exchange intelligence information with Tokyo and the joint work of the armies of the two countries.
At the same time, Yun is also trying to please his powerful ally, the United States. The United States is now desperately trying to resolve disputes among its allies to counter China.
US President Joe Biden called the South Korean president’s deal with Japan ‘a groundbreaking new chapter’. He even sent President Yun a state invitation to visit the White House, the BBC reported.
This is definitely a new chapter in South Korea’s position in the world.
This is also a strategic victory for Japan:
It has been decided that not only the top leaders of the two countries but also the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense will hold regular meetings for security discussions.
There is no doubt that both countries will benefit from closer ties between Tokyo and Seoul. But it was also a strategic and diplomatic victory for Japan.
Japan, the world’s third largest economy, is preparing to host the next summit of the G-7, an alliance of seven of the world’s most powerful economies, in Hiroshima next May.
The conference will discuss the threats from North Korea and China.
A closer security relationship with South Korea would help Japan take a firmer stance on how to deal with those threats. They can send an important message to the United States as well.
Northeast Asia is becoming increasingly unstable due to North Korea and China. In this situation, Tokyo wants to reassure Washington that it can still rely on them as the US’s main ally and powerbroker in the region.