President Yoon Suk Yeol will visit Japan for a summit with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida next Thursday to signal the resumption of regular mutual visits between the two countries, which had remained dormant for the past 12 years. The restoration of the regular diplomatic visits, which will serve as a symbol of improved Korea-Japan relations, is picking up speed, with Prime Minister Kishida’s return visit as early as the latter half of this year, which will be his first to Korea, coordinated.
The Presidential Office stated on Thursday that President Yoon would visit Tokyo next week for a summit with Prime Minister Kishida at the invitation of the Japanese government. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno also announced that President Yoon would visit Tokyo for the upcoming bilateral summit and banquet. “Taking President Yoon’s visit as the chance to resume regular mutual visits between the two countries, which had been suspended for the past 12 years, we expect this to serve as an important milestone for the improvement and development of the bilateral relations,” the South Korean presidential official said.
It has been reported that discussions are underway to restore mutual visits. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Korea and Japan have begun coordinating details on exchanging confirmation at this summit about the bilateral intention to resume mutual visits. The Japanese newspaper cited several sources and said that Prime Minister Kishida would make adjustments for his first visit to Korea as a return visit following the upcoming summit. The last visit by a Japanese leader to Korea was in February 2018, when former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the opening of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
“Although there has been no official discussion between the two countries yet, it is a natural course of events for the Japanese leader to return a visit to South Korea after the South Korean leader’s visit to Japan,” a high-ranking government official said.
The regular mutual visits between the leaders of the two countries began in 2004 with then-President Rho Moo-hyun and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, visiting each other once a year, and were finally cut off in December 2011 with then-President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to Japan for a meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. If Prime Minister Kishida’s visit is actualized, this will revive regular mutual visits between the two countries’ leaders in 12 years. In July 2017, then-President Moon Jae-in and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to restore the mutual visits, but they went in vain due to sour relations.
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