The first meeting scheduled between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) fell through. As the South Korean and Japanese governments have not closed a gap regarding the resolution of the issues of sex slaves and forced labor victims during the Japanese colonial era, it is predicted that President Moon is unlikely to find momentum in the bilateral relations in the last several months of his term.
President Moon attended an event to launch the Global Methane Pledge led by U.S. President Joe Biden as the final program of COP26 held in Glasgow on Tuesday (local time). As it was predicted that Prime Minister Kishida would also attend the event and meet with President Moon, South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae prepared for a short meeting or a brief talk between the two national leaders. However, the Japanese prime minister delivered a keynote speech and had meetings with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, instead of attending the event. Prime Minister Kishida also had a short conversation with U.S. President Joe Biden. The two national leaders agreed to hold a U.S.-Japan summit with the Japanese Prime Minister visiting the U.S. soon in the future, possibly this year, according to the Nikkei Keizai Shimbun.
The reason why Prime Minister Kishida’s meeting with President Moon fell through while he met with several national leaders, including the U.S.’s, at COP 26, which marked his debut on the international diplomatic stage, seemed to be cool relations between South Korea and Japan due to historical issues. Prime Minister Kishida maintained the existing stance by requesting the South Korean government to resolve the historical issues in a phone conversation with President Moon on October 15, forecasting a rough road ahead for bilateral relations.