South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to break the long-standing deadlock and improve bilateral relations in a summit held in Chengdu, China on Tuesday. This was the first formal meeting in 15 months since the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in September last year.
During the summit that lasted for 50 minutes, longer than the planned 30, Moon urged Abe to lift export controls while the Japanese prime minister suggested resolving the trade disputes through dialogue between export authorities. South Korean presidential spokesperson Go Min-jeong said the two leaders agreed on the need for resolving the issues through dialogue although they disagreed on the issue of World War Two compensation. Moon and Abe discussed issues facing the Korean Peninsula and emphasized the importance of cooperation and communication between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo.
Everyone knows that a 50-minute talk cannot resolve all the bilateral issues. It appears that the two leaders held a summit after realizing the worsening relations does not do good for either of them. “South Korea and Japan are historically and culturally the closest neighbors that cannot be separated by a temporary discord,” said President Moon, adding that he hopes that the two nations will “find wise solutions through honest dialogue.” Prime Minister Abe said, “We agreed on the importance of the bilateral relations we have as neighbors” emphasizing the need for resolving the issues through dialogue.
After a series of disputes and conflicts, the summit has set the tone for diminishing tensions. Japan suggested lifting export restrictions on one of the three materials last Friday while South Korea cancelled the decision to end the intelligence sharing pact and withdrew the complaint it filed with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Japanese trade restrictions. The so-called “Moon Hee-sang bill” was proposed to the National Assembly, a possible solution for the World War Two compensation.
Even though it is important for the two leaders to agree on the importance of dialogues, we still have a long way to go, especially when it comes to the compensation issue. Resolving the issue would require time and patience as it cannot be done overnight. It also requires great leadership skills from the leaders who should be able to convince their people. They should not go against the political trend in East Asia, worried about the public sentiment. It is time for them to create a win-win situation that can boost the growth and peace in the region.