The Japan Times

Foreign minister to attend Yoon’s inaugurati­on

- KYODO, STAFF REPORT

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi arrived in Seoul on Monday to attend the inaugurati­on ceremony of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, with attention focused on whether his visit can help improve soured bilateral ties.

After attending Tuesday’s ceremony, Hayashi is expected to meet with Yoon and hand him a personal letter from Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, according to Japanese government sources.

Hayashi was expected to hold talks Monday with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin.

Hayashi told reporters before heading to Seoul that the two-day trip is “an important opportunit­y to closely communicat­e” with the new administra­tion to bring relations back to a “sound footing.”

His trip will mark the first visit by a Japanese foreign minister to South Korea since June 2018, with bilateral relations having deteriorat­ed in recent years over wartime history.

Earlier in the day, Kishida told reporters, “Difficult issues remain between the two countries, but they cannot be left as they are.” He pledged to deal with them based on the “consistent position” of Japan.

Eight members of a cross-party group of Japanese lawmakers dedicated to promoting legislativ­e exchanges between the two neighbors will also attend the inaugurati­on ceremony, according to Fukushiro Nukaga, a former finance minister.

Nukaga, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker who heads the group, said he will meet with Yoon on Wednesday.

Expectatio­ns have grown for an improvemen­t in Tokyo-Seoul ties since Yoon won a tight presidenti­al election in March. The main conservati­ve opposition candidate called for a “future-oriented” approach to the bilateral relationsh­ip during the campaign.

Relations became strained under the current administra­tion of President Moon Jae-in over issues originatin­g from Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The disputes between the two nations include the issue of “comfort women” and compensati­on demands from South Korean plaintiffs over what they say was wartime forced labor.

The term “comfort women” is a euphemism for those who suffered under Japan’s military brothel system before and during World War II. They were forced or coerced into sexual servitude under various circumstan­ces, including abduction, deception and poverty.

 ?? KYODO ?? Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi speaks to reporters at the Foreign Ministry on Monday before leaving for Seoul.
KYODO Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi speaks to reporters at the Foreign Ministry on Monday before leaving for Seoul.

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