Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga spoke with South Korean President Moon Jae-In over the phone Thursday, amid speculation over whether the stepping down of former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe will mark a change in tone for a bilateral relationship that has been at its lowest ebb in decades.
The 20-minute phone call — proposed by the South Korean side and the first since Suga became leader — offered a glimmer of hope that the ties between the two Asian countries may finally improve after having come to a standstill. During Abe’s almost eight-year tenure, Tokyo’s relationship with Seoul soured as they engaged in tit-for-tat actions over wartime history and trade issues. The last time Abe and Moon spoke was in December.
Suga, though, has quickly rejected the view that Japan will soften its stance under his leadership, telling reporters after the phone conversation that the country would work with its neighbor on issues connected to the coronavirus and defense but continue to put pressure on Moon to adjust his course and stabilize the faltering relationship.