While relations with China continue to take a turn for the worse, Japan’s ties with South Korea are hopefully off to a better place. High-ranking officials from both countries are set to meet this week to discuss ways in improving ties that have gone sour in recent years, according to Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.
While the meeting will be the second time representatives from both countries will have formal discussions, the latter summit scheduled this Thursday is anticipated to touch on the topic of Koreans who have been filing lawsuits against Japanese companies, seeking remuneration for wartime labor. The meeting is also expected to bring up the issue of sanctions imposed on Japanese fish products, which have been banned in South Korea in light of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. Japan is anticipated to urge South Korea to relax its restrictions on marine imports, maintaining that there is “no problem with the safety” of its products. On the matter of lawsuits, Japan will insist that all individual lawsuits have already been settled in the 1965 treaty that normalized ties between the two countries.
The meeting will be attended by the Director General of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, Junichi Ihara for Japan and Director General of the Northeast Asian Affairs Bureau of South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, Lee Sang Deok. While the talks would focus mainly on economic concerns, Japan for its part hopes the summit will result in a bilateral foreign ministerial meeting on the fringes of the regional security summit to be held this August in Myanmar, in which both nations will attend. Speaking to reporters, Kishida said, “It is important to ensure communication by taking up issues of mutual interest.” He added, “We would like to build up relations of mutual trust through director general-level consultations and lead (such initiatives) to dialogue at high political levels.”