SEOUL – South Korea’s prime minister plans to visit Japan next week in what would be the highest-level trip since Tokyo imposed export curbs in a deepening trade and diplomatic row, his office said Sunday.
Lee Nak-yon, whose trip is scheduled for Oct. 22-24, will attend Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony on behalf of President Moon Jae-in, his office said in a statement.
Lee is likely to hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which would mark the highest-level dialogue since tensions flared up last year over the issue of Japan’s use of wartime labor.
“We hope his visit would help improve relations,” an unidentified presidential official was quoted as saying by the South’s Yonhap news agency.
Moon’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Relations between the neighbors are arguably at their lowest ebb since they normalized ties in 1965, after South Korea’s Supreme Court last year ordered two Japanese companies to compensate some wartime laborers.
Japan says the issue was settled under a 1965 treaty that normalized relations.
The dispute has since spilled over into trade and security, with Japan slapping export curbs and South Korea scrapping a bilateral intelligence-sharing pact.
In August, Seoul announced it will not renew the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) when it expires late next month.
GSOMIA, the first military pact between the two key American allies following Korea’s liberation from Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule, has been regarded as an important mechanism for security cooperation between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo.
Japanese media have reported that Abe is scheduled to meet around 50 foreign guests who will visit Tokyo for the ceremony. The Japanese leader is reportedly willing to have a brief one-on-one meeting with Lee.
Both Lee and Abe attended the United Nations General Assembly in New York in late September but failed to hold talks on the sidelines.