With the international situation drastically changing and the security environment in Asia deteriorating, it is highly significant for Japan and South Korea, which share common values, to cooperate with each other. The leaders of the two countries should continue communicating with each other to achieve concrete results.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited South Korea and had a summit with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol. This meeting marked the resumption of reciprocal visits between the leaders of Japan and South Korea for the first time in 12 years.
The prime minister’s visit to South Korea, which took place just less than two months after Yoon’s visit to Japan, was made possible by the proposal to resolve the issue of lawsuits related to former requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula in which the Yoon administration will not seek the payment of compensation from Japan.
In South Korea, however, there is criticism that Yoon has made too many concessions. Simply standing by and watching Yoon’s efforts could reverse the situation.
At the summit, Kishida emphasized his intention to follow the position of the 1998 Japan-Korea Joint Declaration that expressed remorse and an apology for Japan’s colonial rule. Kishida went on to say, “I have a pain in my heart that so many people suffered.”
The fact that the prime minister expressed his thoughts in his own words likely was intended to commend Yoon’s political decision and to soften the backlash in South Korea.
At the summit, Yoon said, “We must get away from the belief that we cannot take any steps toward future cooperation unless we completely settle historical issues.” Yoon’s unwavering commitment to move Japan-South Korea relations forward is commendable.
In the issue related to former requisitioned workers, 10 bereaved family members so far have accepted the South Korean government’s solution and have received benefits. In addition, one of the surviving plaintiffs is reportedly also likely to accept the solution.
The prime minister must not forget the importance of taking the other side’s position into consideration.
After the March Kishida-Yoon summit in Tokyo, the two governments have resumed multilayered discussions. Last month, both governments decided on a policy to redesignate each other as nations eligible for preferential export procedures for the first time in about four years.
It can be said that the Tokyo-Seoul relations have entered a new phase. The two countries must build on their cooperation in various fields.
Regarding the issue of treated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc., the two leaders also agreed that Seoul will dispatch an inspection mission of South Korean experts to Japan.
The government plans to discharge the treated water into the ocean as early as this summer. The treated water contains tritium, a radioactive substance, at a level that is not problematic according to international standards. Such discharges into the ocean are being carried out by other nations, including South Korea.
Last year, an International Atomic Energy Agency task force, whose members included a South Korean expert, issued a report saying that the discharge plan is appropriate. Based on scientific findings, the government needs to seek greater understanding of the discharge of treated water.
Source: The Japan News