TOKYO (AP) — Japan and South Korea have agreed on steps to resolve a trade dispute that has been one of the tensions the nations’ leaders aimed to resolve at a much-anticipated summit on Thursday. .
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will meet later today in Tokyo in a bid to overcome differences over history and quickly rebuild their nations’ security and economic ties. A North Korean missile launch and encounters between Japanese and Chinese ships in disputed waters earlier Thursday show what is at stake for the two countries.
South Korean Commerce Minister Lee Chang-yang said following discussions this week that Japan had agreed to lift export controls on South Korea, which will withdraw its complaint to the World Trade Organization once restrictions are lifted.
Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Japan acknowledged South Korea’s improved export controls during the talks and that following the decision to Seoul to drop the WTO case, Japan had decided to lift restrictions against South Korea and restore the country to the status it had before July 2019.
Lee’s ministry said the countries would continue to discuss restoring their preferred trading status after downgrading in 2019.
Japanese export controls covered fluorinated polyimides, which are used in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays for televisions and smartphones, as well as photoresist and hydrogen fluoride, used to make semi- drivers.
The two countries, which have often been at odds over their history, seek to form a united front with their common ally, the United States, driven by common concerns over a restless North Korea and a more powerful China. their peak comes as a series of dramatic events underscore how Northeast Asia is splitting into blocks.
NORTH KOREA WELCOMES SUMMIT WITH MISSILE TEST
A North Korean missile launch early Thursday, just before Yoon leaves for Tokyo, could give him and Kishida fresh impetus to draw their countries closer diplomatically. The intercontinental ballistic missile was launched on a steep trajectory to avoid land and fell in open waters off Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido.
The test comes after a year in which North Korea has stepped up its nuclear threatsand is likely intended to send a message both about the summit and about the concurrent joint military exercises, including the United States, that the isolated country sees as directed against it.
“Peace and stability in the region are important for the region, and we need to further strengthen cooperation between allies and like-minded countries,” Kishida said, referring to the missile launch.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Japan wanted to reaffirm cooperation with Seoul and Washington in response to North Korea’s missile threats.
Yoon, in a written response Wednesday to questions from foreign media including the Associated Press, said the strained relations between Korea and Japan must be repaired as soon as possible. “I believe we must end the vicious cycle of mutual hostility and work together to pursue the common interests of our two countries.”
REGION IN FLUX LIKE WASHINGTON, BEIJING FIGHT FOR INFLUENCE
Washington will welcome better relations between Japan and South Korea, as squabbles over historical issues have undermined US willingness to strengthen its alliances in Asia to better deal with North Korean nuclear threats and the growing power of China.
The dispute between China and Japan over tiny islands in the East China Sea heated up on Thursday, with both sides accusing the other of violating their maritime territory after Chinese coast guard vessels entered the waters around a group of uninhabited islands that Japan controls and calls the Senkakus, and which Beijing claims and also calls the Diaoyu Islands. The islands are just north of Taiwan, which also claims them as its own.
The summit also follows a series of Chinese diplomatic successes in regions traditionally considered more influenced by the United States. Honduras announced on Wednesday that it would end diplomatic recognition of Taiwan. in favor of China, marking progress in Beijing’s efforts to isolate the self-ruled island, while last week Saudi Arabia and Iran announced a surprise deal to renew diplomatic ties brokered by the China.
The United States is also making efforts to consolidate regional alliances. Washington apparently worked to provoke today’s summit and on Thursday began joint anti-submarine warfare exercises with South Korea and Japan as well as Canada and India.
SOUTH KOREA OFFERS CONCESSIONS IN EFFORT TO BEYOND HISTORY
The focus at the first two-nation summit in Japan since 2011 is how Kishida responds to Yoon’s plan for the fund, a major concession from Seoul, and if or when they can resume advocacy dialogues and visits. managers regularly.
Kishida and Yoon are due to have dinner together after the summit and then informal talks, according to Kishida’s office. According to media reports, Kishida will host a two-part dinner: ‘sukiyaki’ beef stew for one round, then ‘omu-rice’, or rice topped with omelet – said to be Yoon’s favorite dish – in another. restaurant.
Japan and South Korea have long had disputes over Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945 and atrocities during World War II, which included the forced prostitution of “comfort women” for Japanese soldiers. and territorial disputes over a group of islands.
The ties fell after South Korea’s Supreme Court in 2018 ordered two Japanese companies, Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, to compensate some of their former Korean employees for forced labor during World War II.
Japan insisted that all compensation issues were settled by a 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral relations and was accompanied by $800 million in economic aid and loans from Tokyo to Seoul.
Historical disputes have spilled over into trade and defence. The two countries have agreed to negotiate to restore their trade relationship to the status quo before Japan imposes restrictions in 2019.
On Thursday, a powerful Japanese business lobby, Keidanren, or the Japan Business Federation, announced that it and its South Korean counterpart had agreed to set up a pair of private funds for bilateral projects such as youth exchanges.
A dozen business leaders traveling with Yoon are due to meet their Japanese counterparts on Friday.
Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.
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