Japan's PM, S. Korea's president-elect agree to improve ties

Japans PM, S. Koreas president-elect agree to improve ties

Tokyo: Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korea's president-elect Yoon Suk Yeol talked on the phone Friday, agreeing to cooperate toward improving their countries' ties, signalling a thaw in their icy relations strained by wartime history disputes.

After their 15-minute talk, Kishida told reporters that sound relations between Japan and its important neighbour, South Korea, are indispensable in achieving the rules-based international order and ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world, just as the international society is faced with Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Yoon, a conservative former top prosecutor and foreign policy neophyte, was elected South Korean president to replace outgoing Moon Jae-in, during whose leadership bilateral relations have sunk to their lowest in years over Japan's atrocities during its 1910-1945 colonisation of the Korean Peninsula.

Japanese officials including lawmakers of Kishida's conservative governing party and experts have welcomed the victory of Yoon, who has sought stronger alliance with the United States, improved ties with Japan and tougher stance toward North Korea.

Kishdia said he told Yoon that he hoped to cooperate together to improve their bilateral ties and looks forward to Yoon's leadership.

And of course, we said that we wanted to meet each other face-to-face as soon as possible and to have dialogue. We made such remarks to each other, both from my side and from his side, Kishida added, without elaborating on the timing.

Kishida said he and Yoon also agreed to cooperate closely in dealing with North Korea and its nuclear and missile threats, including the North's recent launches of ICBM-class ballistic missiles.

But Kishida repeated Japan's position that the two countries need to develop their relations based on their friendship and cooperation built since the 1965 normalisation of their diplomatic ties.

Relations between Tokyo and Seoul rapidly deteriorated after South Korean court rulings ordered Japanese companies to pay reparations to Korean labourers over their abuses during world War II.

Another sticking point is Korean comfort women who were sexually abused by Japan's wartime military.

Japan insists that all compensation issues were settled under the 1965 treaty normalising relations with Seoul and that South Korean court orders to Japanese companies to pay compensation violate international law.

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