The Korea Herald


S. Korean, Japanese FMs agree on NK, differ on historical issues

Cho will fly to US for first foreign ministerial meeting with Blinken, following G20 meeting

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : Feb. 22, 2024 - 14:35

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South Korean Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul (right) shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart, Yoko Kamikawa, as they meet in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday on the sidelines of G-20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs) South Korean Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul (right) shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart, Yoko Kamikawa, as they meet in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday on the sidelines of G-20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

The top diplomats of South Korea and Japan agreed to strengthen cooperation on North Korean issues, while expressing lingering differences in historical matters, including compensation for forced labor victims during Japan’s colonial rule of the peninsula and South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.

South Korean Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul and his Japanese counterpart, Yoko Kamikawa, met for the first time Wednesday for a 30-minute meeting, starting at 11:10 a.m. local time, on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Rio de Janeiro.

"Both ministers exchanged views on various bilateral issues and concurred on the significance of maintaining ongoing communication between diplomatic authorities for the future-oriented advancement of Korea-Japan relations," South Korea's Foreign Ministry said Thursday in a released statement.

The two also denounced North Korea's recent escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the region through hostile rhetoric and provocations.

Both agreed to persist in their efforts, grounded in close bilateral and trilateral cooperation between South Korea and Japan and with the United States, to guide North Korea back to the path of denuclearization in tandem with the international community.

"With regard to that, Minister Cho also proposed the continuation of close communication between (South) Korea and Japan regarding relations between Japan and North Korea," Seoul said.

The meeting occurred after a statement from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister and spokesperson Kim Yo-jong, who expressed North Korea's openness to enhancing relations with Japan and floated the idea of a potential visit by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to Pyongyang in a statement issued on Feb. 15. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi remarked the following day that Japan is "paying attention" to the remarks.

"Moreover, both ministers concurred that Korea and Japan should collaborate on addressing various North Korean human rights concerns, encompassing abduction victims, detainees and prisoners of war," South Korea's Foreign Ministry said in the statement.

Additionally, the two diplomats discussed recent progress regarding the Korea-Japan-China summit and pledged to collaborate to expedite the organization of the meeting.

However, the two ministers reaffirmed persistent differences between Seoul and Tokyo regarding historical issues during their first in-person meeting, according to statements issued by the two foreign ministries.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry stated that "discussions on the recent payment of compensation by Hitachi Zosen Corp. were conducted to reaffirm both sides' positions."

The meeting took place days after the bereaved family of a South Korean victim of Japan's wartime forced labor, which occurred during Japan's occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, received compensation on Tuesday.

The compensation was acquired from collateral previously deposited by Hitachi Zosen Corp. with a South Korean court, marking the first instance of a Japanese company providing compensation in such circumstances.

Seoul has said that the disbursement of the funds followed procedures stipulated by the pertinent laws and regulations.

Japan's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said Kamikawa "expressed strong regret regarding the Hitachi Zosen case, as it inflicts unjustifiable damages and costs to said company."

According to the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, Cho also protested an annual event called 'Takeshima Day," organized by the Shimane prefectural government on Thursday.

Cho "emphasized that Dokdo is clearly our inherent territory historically, geographically and according to international law.”

Japan's Foreign Ministry said Kamikawa "reaffirmed Japan's enduring stance on Takeshima."

The event was attended by around 500 participants, including Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Reconstruction Shojiro Hiranuma.

In response, South Korea's Foreign Ministry summoned Taisuke Mibae, the deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on Thursday, while issuing a statement.

"We strongly protest against Japan's repeated unjust territorial claims over Dokdo and once again gravely urge the immediate abolition of the event," the statement read.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Foreign Ministry on Thursday announced that Cho is slated to meet with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Kamikawa on Thursday for a trilateral meeting in Rio de Janeiro.

Cho will also embark on his first trip exclusively to a third country, heading to the US, following his international debut in Brazil on Wednesday and Thursday.

Cho will be staying in the US for a relatively extended period, with the first meeting between Cho and Blinken scheduled for Feb. 28, according to South Korea's Foreign Ministry.

During the meeting, both leaders will discuss ways to strengthen their "global comprehensive strategic alliance," including enhancing cooperation in economic security. The two also will reaffirm the robust alliance through measures such as strengthening the viability of US extended deterrence, according to the ministry.