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Lee, Abe agree to improve bilateral relations

Posted October. 25, 2019 07:43,   

Updated October. 25, 2019 07:43


After his Thursday meeting in Tokyo, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon found a common ground with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the worsening relations between the two neighbors should not be left unattended any longer. Some experts are saying that the meeting could serve as a turning point for their bilateral relations with a hand-written letter from South Korean President Moon Jae-in being delivered to Mr. Abe to urge shared efforts to quickly resolve the pending issues between the two countries.

According to First Vice Foreign Minister Jo Se-yeong, who attended the meeting, Lee visited Mr. Abe’s official residence in Tokyo at 11:12 a.m. on Thursday morning and had a meeting with the Japanese prime minister for 21 minutes. “We should kickstart our communications and exchanges between the foreign affairs authorities to assuage the strains on the bilateral relations between South Korea and Japan,” said Mr. Lee, and in response, Mr. Abe proposed to continue communication efforts between the authorities to address their pending issues. Both prime ministers used the word “communication” in their remarks. The dialogue went well over the initially earmarked 10 minutes and was extended for 11 more minutes, and both parties agreed to use the term “meeting” for the occasion instead of a “talk.”

During the meeting, Prime Minister Lee presented President Moon’s letter to Abe. The letter stressed the importance of the two nations as close neighbors and partners in working together to bring peace and stability to the region, while urging shared interest and effort to resolve the set of pending issues at the earliest opportunity, according to a government official.

As for the South Korean court ruling on forced labor, however, the two sides failed iron out their difference. Mr. Abe repeatedly made the case that “promises between countries must be honored,” and Mr. Lee responded: “Korea has both respected and complied with the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea and claims agreement, and we will continue to do so.” Other agendas such as the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, which will be terminated on November 22, or a summit meeting between Seoul and Tokyo, were not discussed during the meeting.

Hyung-Jun Hwang constant25@donga.com