South Korea willing to normalize security cooperation with Japan

South Korea willing to normalize security cooperation with Japan

The defense chief of South Korea, SEOUL Kyodo, said his country is willing to normalize security cooperation with Japan, amid signs of a thaw in bilateral ties over wartime issues.

South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong Sup spoke at the annual Asia Security Summit in Singapore on Sunday and said he was ready to engage in serious dialogue with Japan. His Japanese counterpart Nobuo Kishi was also in attendance.

There have been signs of improvement in bilateral relations under the new South Korean administration of President Yoon Suk Yeol, who took office in May.

Yoon wants to promote trilateral cooperation with Japan and the United States to deal with North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and missiles, and has pledged to take a future-oriented approach to bilateral relations.

Lee was quoted by Yonhap News Agency and other sources as telling reporters that while he did not hold talks with Kishi during the forum, the Shangri-La Dialogue was known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, they were able to chat informally on three occasions.

He told Kishi that he wants to see their countries' relations go in a positive direction. Lee stressed the importance of creating a good atmosphere and saying that the time to hold bilateral talks will come naturally. In another positive development for bilateral relations, South Korea's Foreign Minister Park Jin said separately on Sunday before leaving the United States that he will arrange a mutually convenient time for him to visit Japan.

It would be the first visit by a South Korean foreign minister since November 2019.

Park was quoted by Yonhap as saying there would be an appropriate time for a possible meeting between Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Yoon will attend the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Spain later this month, a first for a South Korean leader, according to a person close to his office, while Japanese government sources said Kishida is considering taking part in the gathering.

South Korea has sounded out Japan about holding an in-person meeting between Yoon and Kishida on the fringes of the summit, according to government sources.

The two agreed to improve bilateral ties and hope to meet in person at an early date during phone talks after Yoon's presidential election in March.

With concerns over the possibility of North Korea conducting a seventh nuclear test, Park said that Pyongyang has now completed its preparations and that the decision to conduct the test rests on the political decision of the North.

Under the previous administration of South Korean President Moon Jae In, bilateral relations deteriorated due to disputes dating back to Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, including the issue of comfort women procured for Japan's wartime military brothels and compensation demands from South Koreans over what they claim was wartime forced labor.

The two sides have long been at odds over islets controlled by Seoul and claimed by Tokyo, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, as well as Japanese restrictions on semiconductor material exports to South Korea imposed in July 2019.

After an incident in December 2018, the South Korean navy allegedly locked fire-control radar on a Japanese Self-Defense Forces patrol plane in Japan's exclusive economic zone.