South Korea willing to separate history issues

Foreign minister says Seoul and Tokyo can still cooperate on North Korea, economic matters


South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se on Tuesday expressed his country’s readiness to promote cooperation with Japan on economic, cultural and other issues separately from bilateral tensions over history.

South Korea will push ahead with cooperation with Japan as well as three-way cooperation with Japan and the United States on economic affairs, cultural exchanges and the issue of North Korea’s nuclear threat, apart from history issues, Yun told the National Assembly.

But he also underscored his country’s basic stance of seeking stable development of relations based on a correct understanding of history.

Yun made the remarks after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, during his visit to South Korea last week, called on Japan and South Korea to mend fences before U.S. President Barack Obama visits the two countries in April.

Cooperation between Japan, the United States and South Korea over security issues is important, Kerry said.

In Tokyo on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said he hopes to hold a bilateral meeting with Yun as part of an effort to promote better communication between Japan and South Korea.

Regarding a bilateral director general-level meeting set to start the same day in Seoul, Kishida said Japan hopes to advance ties with South Korea by conducting a series of specific communication projects for cooperation. South Korea is an important neighbor for Japan, he said.

On Tuesday, Junichi Ihara, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, was to hold talks with Lee Sang-deuk, director general of the South Korean Foreign Ministry’s Northeast Asian Affairs Bureau.

It was to be the first such talks since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s December visit to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine further strained relations between the two nations, which had deteriorated over history and competing claims to islands.

South Korea considers the Tokyo shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, a symbol of Japan’s past militarism because it also honors World War II Class-A criminals.

Also in his remarks to the National Assembly, Yun said critical opinions about Japanese actions that run counter to history are gaining support in the international community. South Korea will make efforts so that such views will be held more widely in the world, he said.

Kishida wants meeting


Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday repeated his call for a meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Yun Byung-se, to help mend soured ties between the two countries.

Ties are strained due to a territorial dispute over South Korean-controlled islets, and differing perceptions of history related to Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, preventing the countries from resuming high-level diplomatic talks.

The tiny islets, situated in the Sea of Japan, are called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese.

“I would like to realize a foreign ministerial meeting as a way of fostering mutual understanding,” Kishida told a news conference.

“South Korea is an important neighboring country and trilateral cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea will be significant in view of the situation surrounding North Korea,” he said.

Kishida added that he wants to move bilateral relations forward by cooperating further on diplomatic issues.

Kishida last month met South Korean Second Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul in Switzerland on the sidelines of an international conference and conveyed his hope for a ministerial-level meeting.

Cho said he would relay Kishida’s message to Yun and expressed his expectation for productive discussions between the two nations.