Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met with Kim Kyou-hyun, South Korea’s first vice minister of foreign affairs, on Thursday as the two countries struggle to overcome territorial and historical disputes that are damaging bilateral ties.
“South Korea is an important partner and a neighbor that shares our fundamental sense of values and interests. I hope to develop bilateral relations through communications,” Kishida told Kim at the Foreign Ministry.
“There are difficulties lying between South Korea and Japan, but if we cooperate together with the attitude of climbing to higher ground and looking from a far distance, the future of bilateral relations will be opened,” Kim told Kishida.
The meeting came a week after Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki held talks with Kim in Seoul in an apparent bid to mend ties. South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who both took office recently, have yet to hold their first summit due to the current strains.
Kishida had a face-to-face talk with South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se in Brunei on July 1 on the sidelines of a regional security summit, and both agreed to cooperate closely in developing bilateral relations. It was the first time in nine months that the two nations’ top diplomats had held talks.
After Thursday’s meeting, Kim told the media that the talk was constructive.
“I’m happy to be able to confirm that Foreign Minister Kishida has a strong will to develop bilateral relations,” Kim said.
Kim arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday to attend the opening ceremony for the South Korean Embassy’s new building. He was scheduled to meet his counterpart, Saiki, later in the evening.
In April, Yun canceled plans to visit Japan after Cabinet ministers and other lawmakers visited war-related Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, as well as Class-A war criminals, and served as the spiritual backbone for Japan’s war of aggression.
Japan’s ongoing territorial tensions with China and South Korea as well as disagreements over wartime history led to the suspension of a trilateral summit in May.