South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol was in hot water Tuesday after comments he made about former colonial power Japan not needing to "kneel down" to improve ties went viral on social media.

Yoon, who is on a six-day state visit to the United States, has made boosting relations with Tokyo a key plank of his administration's policy as he seeks to increase regional security cooperation in the face of rising threats from North Korea.

Bilateral ties were long strained by lingering issues linked to Tokyo's brutal 1910 to 1945 colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula — including wartime labor and “comfort women,” a euphemism for those who suffered under Japan’s military brothel system before and during World War II — even as Washington has repeatedly urged its two key regional allies to boost cooperation.