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South Korea and Japan Meet in Tokyo, Promise to Hold Talks More Often

On Thursday, 16 March 2023, the leaders of South Korea and Japan met in Tokyo to discuss and further their relationship. While the first one to extend its hand was South Korea, more is expected of Japan in the future. The two countries have also agreed to meet more often to work on improving their relationship and on existing trade disputes.

South Korea and Japan – both rank among the primary power holders in Asia right now. They are both allied with the United States and have a significant amount of power. But despite being neighbors and sharing wavelengths, they have a rocky relationship. Their history spans an extended period, and some of the primary reasons why they could not attain complete peace and harmony are disputes over what the water body dividing the Korean peninsulas and Japan should be named, disagreements over the ownership of small islands between the two countries, etc. Their disharmony dates to 1910, when Japan colonized South Korea – a rule that lasted till the end of the second world war.

Despite this tumultuous history, both countries have reason to amend their relationship. North Korea has been firing ‘test missiles’ since early 2022. It began with short-range ballistic missiles, but as recently as 18 February 2023, a long-range missile was fired in Pyongyang – the capital city.

With the primary goal being the safety of Northeast Asia, the South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol reached out and decided to move forward. He asked Japan to compensate a few victims of the sexual slavery it forced upon women during colonization. In turn, South Korea agreed to raise the money.

This move was criticized by the South Korean opposition party stating that “it was the biggest humiliation in their history.” But there are multiple opposing views as the move led to Yoon Suk Yeol being invited to Tokyo. Diplomats are viewing it as “brave and astute.” President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, praised the move by saying it would open a “ground-breaking new chapter” for South Korea.

His statement stands true, as this move could benefit South Korea in various ways. An improved relationship with Japan could earn South Korea an invitation to the G7 Summit in May, which is being held in Hiroshima. It could also result in long-awaited progress on the grounds of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between South Korea and Japan. Export restrictions placed on highly valued items could also be lifted if things go well, which is made out to be a top priority.

This move will benefit not only South Korea but also Japan by giving it a diplomatic and strategic win. The security threats facing the two countries will be addressed before all else, and closer ties with South Korea in terms of security will also solidify Japan’s standing.


Edited by Whitney Edna Ibe

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