Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday hailed South Korea’s plan for settling a wartime labor compensation dispute with Japan, pledging to accelerate efforts to improve bilateral relations that had frayed significantly over recent years due to the row.
At a parliamentary session, Kishida said South Korea’s solution, announced earlier in the day, will help to restore “healthy ties” between Tokyo and Seoul, describing the neighbor as an “important partner.”
The plan centers on a government-backed South Korean foundation paying compensation to Korean plaintiffs, instead of requiring two Japanese companies to do so, as had been ordered by South Korean court rulings.
Kishida said Tokyo has been keen to “further bolster” its “strategic partnership” with Seoul to better grapple with international challenges, such as growing military threats from North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development programs.
Meanwhile, Kishida said the government will stand by its apology to South Korea for past aggressions.
“We have taken the position articulated by previous cabinets on the view of history and will continue to do so,” Kishida said at the Diet session.
In 1995, on the 50th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issued a statement that has been mentioned by successive cabinets as the government’s basic stance.
Murayama said Japan “caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations” through its colonial rule and aggression, stating his “feelings of deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology.”
A 1998 declaration made by then Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and then South Korean President Kim Dae Jung contained a similar expression.
Regarding the South Korean foundation, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the government will allow domestic companies to join the entity, saying Tokyo will not prevent private firms from being voluntarily engaged in donation activities.
Hayashi said the South Korean proposal is expected to help expand political, economic and cultural exchanges between the two Asian countries.
Bilateral relations deteriorated to their lowest point in years after South Korean top court rulings in 2018, under the previous administration of President Moon Jae In, ordered two Japanese companies to pay damages over wartime forced labor.
The firms have refused to comply with the orders, as Japan has maintained that all issues stemming from its 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula were settled under a bilateral agreement signed in 1965.
But President Yoon Suk Yeol, who took office last year, has voiced his eagerness to improve ties with Tokyo, saying Japan has transformed from a “militaristic aggressor” to a “partner that shares the same universal values” with South Korea.
The South Korean government expressed hope that Yoon can visit Japan by the end of this month for talks with Kishida.
Asked about the possibility of inviting Yoon to the Group of Seven summit in his constituency of Hiroshima in May, Kishida said only that he is now considering which nations and international organizations should participate in the G7 gathering as guests.
Source: japan today