The Japanese government is seriously considering high-level dialogue with the incoming South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, with the conservative president-elect seen as willing to improve bilateral relations, a government source said Saturday.
Recent high-level dialogue between the two countries has not been held, as the current administration of liberal President Moon Jae-in has clashed with Tokyo over issues stemming from Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
Under the new president Fumio Kishida's government hopes to strengthen cooperation with South Korea and forge closer coordination with the United States over North Korea's nuclear and missile threat, the source said.
The immediate focus is on who should be sent to Yoon's inauguration ceremony on May 10. Seoul is expecting a senior official of the Kishida government to attend the event.
Tokyo is expected to begin finalizing who will represent Japan soon while watching Yoon's posture toward bilateral ties.
Yoon has called for a future-oriented approach to ties after being elected in a close presidential contest in March, as well as a meeting with the Japanese ambassador to South Korea Koichi Aiboshi on March 28.
South Korea and Japan are partners that share many tasks, such as security and economic prosperity, and it is necessary to have a future-oriented partnership based on a correct perspective on history, according to his spokeswoman.
Japanese officials are willing to engage with the incoming Yoon administration.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said: "We can welcome the next administration," unlike the Moon administration. We want to make contact at the right time. Both sides are willing to improve ties, a high-level government official said.
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said at a news conference on Friday that they will communicate with the new administration at an appropriate time and level. A diplomatic source said Arrangements are underway for U.S. President Joe Biden to visit South Korea before visiting Japan in late May.
If Biden comes to Japan after meeting Yoon, the U.S. president may raise Japan-South Korea issues in his talks with Kishida. If so, Kishida may convey to Biden that it is Tokyo's intention to improve ties with Seoul.
Hayashi told reporters on Friday that no one has been selected yet regarding who will be sent to Seoul for Yoon's presidential inauguration.
In 2008, sitting Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda attended President Lee Myung-bak's inauguration ceremony, while former Prime Minister Taro Aso, who was then doubling as the deputy prime minister and finance minister, took part in President Park Geun-hye's ceremony.