South Korea, Japan must confront ‘common threats’ together, Yoon Suk-yeol says – as Kishida vows to never again wage war
- The South Korean president, at a ceremony marking the end of Japanese colonial rule, called for ties between the two to ‘swiftly and properly improve’
- It came as Fumio Kishida sent an offering to a controversial shrine honouring Japanese war dead – and pledged that Japan would never again wage war
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the 1945 end of Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean peninsula, Yoon said Tokyo had become a partner in tackling threats to global freedom, adding that he wants to “swiftly and properly improve” bilateral relations.
“When Korea-Japan relations move toward a common future and when the mission of our times align, based on our shared universal values, it will also help us solve the historical problems that exist between our two countries,” Yoon said in the Liberation Day speech.
South Korea’s foreign ministry submitted an argument to the Supreme Court last month, asking for a delay of the verdict on liquidising assets of a Japanese company to pay compensation for the conscripted workers. The ministry added it was making various diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue.
Yoon is unlikely to get money for any joint fund, or for South Korea to pay on its own, from a parliament where Moon’s Democratic Party holds a majority and has demanded Japan show what it sees as proper contrition. Yoon, whose support rate has fallen sharply, risks further alienating the South Korean public by moves seen as cosying up to long-time rival Japan.
“We will implement a large-scale food programme; provide assistance for power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure; and carry out projects to modernise ports and airports for international trade,” he said.
Yoon’s government has said the possible operation of an American-made missile shield that raised the ire of China was “not negotiable”, pushing back at Beijing’s efforts to hold him to Moon’s policy to freeze its deployment.
Decisions on the deployment of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system was a matter of South Korea’s self-defence, a senior presidential official told reporters last week in Seoul. The Yoon administration is accelerating efforts to “normalise” the operation of the US base in the southern city of Seongju that deployed the THAAD system, the official said.
Kishida sent an offering to the shrine without visiting, Kyodo news agency reported. He sent offerings to Yasukuni during festivals last year and this spring.
“We will never again repeat the horrors of war. I will continue to live up to this determined oath,” Kishida told a secular gathering elsewhere in Tokyo, also attended by Emperor Naruhito. “In a world where conflicts are still unabated, Japan is a proactive leader in peace,” he said.
“I am not aware of whether the prime minister will visit Yasukuni Shrine or not, and I believe that he will make the appropriate decision,” chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference on Monday.
“It is natural for any country to pay respect to those who gave their lives for their country,” Matsuno said. “Japan will continue to strengthen its relations with its neighbours, including China and South Korea.”
A group of lawmakers that normally visit en masse on August 15 said last week they would not do so due to a recent surge in coronavirus cases.
Kishida avoided paying his respects in person on the anniversary of the war’s end while he was a cabinet minister and LDP official, but has sent offerings to the two Yasukuni festivals that have taken place since he took office last October.
The US and Japan have become staunch security allies in the decades since the war’s end, but its legacy still haunts East Asia.
Koreans resent Japan’s 1910-1945 colonisation of the peninsula, while China has bitter memories of imperial troops’ invasion and occupation of parts of the country from 1931-1945.
Additional reporting by Reuters