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South Korea’s Yoon makes historic visit to Japan for summit with Kishida

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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol arrived in Japan on Thursday for a historic summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the first such visit by a South Korean leader in 12 years. The two leaders are expected to discuss ways to improve bilateral relations and co-operate on regional security.

The summit comes after South Korea announced last week that it would compensate victims of forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945 through a public foundation funded by private Korean companies. The move was seen as a major step toward resolving one of the main sources of tension between the two neighbors, who have also clashed over disputed islands and wartime sexual slavery.

However, hours before Yoon’s arrival, North Korea fired a long-range ballistic missile into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, highlighting the urgency of coordinating their response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs. Japan condemned the launch as a “reckless act” that threatened regional peace and security.

Yoon said in an interview before his departure that there was an increasing need for South Korea and Japan to cooperate in this time of “poly-crisis”, citing not only North Korea’s provocations but also supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. He said he hoped to “invigorate” security cooperation and restart regular visits between the leaders.

Kishida welcomed Yoon at his official residence and said he looked forward to having a “frank exchange of views” with him. He said he hoped to build trust and friendship with Yoon and work together for peace and prosperity in Asia.

The two leaders are expected to confirm the resumption of a bilateral security dialogue that has been suspended since 2018, according to Japanese media reports. They are also likely to discuss economic cooperation, climate change, Covid-19 vaccines and cultural exchanges

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