South Korea willing to normalize security cooperation with Japan

South Korea willing to normalize security cooperation with Japan

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

In a speech Sunday at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore, South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup said that the country is ready to engage in serious dialogue with Japan.

There have been recent signs of improvement in bilateral ties under the new South Korean administration of President Yoon Suk-yeol who took office in May.

Yoon wants to boost trilateral cooperation with Japan and the United States to deal with North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and missiles, and he 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, 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 said that it is important to create a good atmosphere and that the time to hold bilateral talks will come naturally. South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin said on Sunday before leaving the US that he will arrange a mutually convenient time for him to visit Japan, a positive development for bilateral relations.

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

Under the former administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, bilateral relations deteriorated over disputes dating back to Japan's 1910 -- 1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, namely the issue of comfort women and compensation demands from South Koreans over what they claim to be wartime forced labor.

Comfort women is a euphemism for those who suffered during World War II under Japan's military brothel system. They were forced or coerced into sexual servitude under various circumstances, including abduction, deception and poverty.

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.

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