The Korea Herald


S. Korea expects to expand exchanges with Japan amid thaw: FM official

By Choi Si-young

Published : Oct. 6, 2023 - 14:39

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The South Korean (right) and Japanese flags. (123rf) The South Korean (right) and Japanese flags. (123rf)

South Korea is expecting fresh consultations with Japan “at many levels,” a senior Foreign Ministry official in Seoul said Friday following their high-level talks the previous day that took place after a nine-year hiatus.

First Vice Foreign Minister Chang Ho-jin and his Japanese counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Masataka Okano, met in Seoul to reaffirm their commitment to curbing the growing threat from North Korea’s nuclear weapons development -- the highest priority among the many pressing security issues the two ministers said they explored.

The dialogue, launched in 2005 to boost ties for handling global challenges together, last took place in October 2014 and had been put on hold since, over a number of reasons including not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but souring relations prompted by lingering historical disputes.

The Yoon administration cleared such hurdles in March, when he proposed a dispute settlement that led to resuming the regular exchanges. Security dialogue that involved foreign and defense ministers took place in April in Seoul after a five-year suspension. In May, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reciprocated Yoon’s trip to Tokyo in March, normalizing “shuttle diplomacy” or leader-level visits.

The official who said Seoul is expecting broader follow-up exchanges expressed optimism that the momentum for closer ties is solid. Details on what kind of consultation Seoul and Tokyo would have together remain to be seen, however.

This latest step could lend support to South Korea’s recent moves to seek friendlier ties with China. As this year’s host, Korea is eyeing to reopen a summit with China and Japan, a get-together that last took place four years ago. Political tension had partly contributed to the suspension.

Chang has said Chinese President Xi Jinping, who met with Prime Minister Han Duck-soo in late September, expressed support for the move at the meeting on the sidelines of the Asian Games in Hangzhou. Xi said he would “seriously consider” visiting Korea, which would further deepen ties.

Efforts to hold the trilateral summit within this year are underway, according to officials in Seoul with direct knowledge of the matter.