South Korea, Japan Renew Ties At Tokyo 'Fence-Mending' Summit

    South Korea, Japan Renew Ties At Tokyo 'Fence-Mending' Summit
    Last updated Mar 16, 2023
    Image credit: Yonhap/EFE-EPA/Shutterstock [via The Wall Street Journal]


    • South Korean Pres. Yoon Suk Yeol on Thursday met with his Japanese counterpart, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in Tokyo for a summit to repair historically strained relations.
    • They agreed to restore "shuttle diplomacy" and expand cooperation in several areas, such as Seoul's proposal to settle a dispute over wartime labor and Kishida vowing to adhere to the 1998 declaration expressing "deep remorse" for Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula.
    • Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that the two leaders are preparing to announce the resumption of a bilateral security dialogue, which has been suspended since 2018, after Yoon stated he expects to revitalize security cooperation.
    • The first formal meeting between the leaders of the two countries since 2011 comes as Seoul and Tokyo seek to deepen coordination on regional challenges as they perceive threats from North Korea and China.
    • Security proposals came just hours after North Korea test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile for the second time this month, reportedly falling into waters west of Japan.
    • Ahead of the summit and as a result of a three-day dialogue between their industry ministries, Japan also removed the 2019 export restrictions imposed on some key materials to South Korea, while Seoul withdrew its complaint filed with the World Trade Organizations.


    Narrative A

    Historical disputes between Seoul and Tokyo will not cease overnight as they are rooted deeply in both nations, so this summit means little in the improvement of their relationship. If Yoon insists on bowing to the US-Japan strategy of creating a strong, unified front against China, he will risk infuriating domestic public opinion and sacrificing his country's national interests only to serve as a pawn in the destabilization of Asia.

    Narrative B

    Despite their long-standing controversies, Japan and South Korea have no other option than to ease tensions as they face mounting threats from North Korea and a rising China. The two like-minded democratic nations have many incentives to deepen their cooperation, which is vital to counter the growing influence of violent, authoritarian countries in the region.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 72% chance that the Japan Self-Defense Forces will have tested a Tomahawk missile by mid-2027, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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