After Fumio Kishida took office as the new prime minister of Japan on Oct. 4, South Korean President Moon Jae-in sent a congratulatory letter highlighting the two countries’ shared values and calling for cooperation, and his administration then gave climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic as examples of global issues to work together on.

Kishida did not match this enthusiasm: At his inaugural policy speech, he instead reaffirmed a hard-line position on improving relations that requires Seoul to change its stance on the issues at the core of the two countries’ diplomatic impasse.

While the political winds do not portend improved relations in the short term, Kishida shouldn’t write off Moon’s suggestion to improve cooperation on nontraditional security issues. Now is the time for Japan and South Korea to lay the groundwork for a new direction in Japan-South Korea relations following South Korea’s March 2022 presidential election, and cooperation on COVID-19 and climate change can be part of that.